Recent Research on the Date and Setting of the Exodus

Share/recommend this article:

Excerpt Sadly, most contemporary Biblical scholars deny the historicity of God’s miraculous deliverance of Israel from Egypt as documented in the Old Testament (Ex 2–12) and alluded to in the New Testament (Acts 7:36; Rom 9:17)... Continue reading

Related Articles
Like this artice?

Our Ministry relies on the generosity of people like you. Every small donation helps us develop and publish great articles.

Please support ABR!

Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover & PayPal

This article was first published in the Fall 2008 issue of Bible and Spade.      

The date and nature of the Exodus have been subjects of scholarly debate since the beginnings of Egyptology in the mid-19th century, and the dispute continues unabated today.

"The exodus from Egypt is a topic around which whirl controversy, debate and heated argument. There is no consensus regarding the date of the Israelite slavery, nor its nature, nor even its historicity…It is an area where archaeological interpretation and biblical narrative collide" (Oblath 2007: 380).

Sadly, most contemporary Biblical scholars deny the historicity of God’s miraculous deliverance of Israel from Egypt as documented in the Old Testament (Ex 2–12) and alluded to in the New Testament (Acts 7:36; Rom 9:17).

The “No Exodus” Theory

Not Mentioned in Egyptian Records

What are the reasons for the widespread skepticism concerning the Exodus? A major stumbling block is that there is no mention of Israelites in Egypt or of an Exodus from Egypt in Egyptian records:

The book [Exodus] relates to Egyptian history but only in a vague way. Not a single Egyptian is identified by name, not even the pharaohs, despite the fact that two of them, the pharaohs of the oppression and the exodus, are involved… Historians acknowledge that, after more than two centuries of archaeological research, there is still an absence of evidence for the presence of Israel in Egypt (Johnstone 2007: 372).

What is usually implied by “evidence” is a reference to Israel or the Exodus in Egyptian written records. It is interesting that Johnstone uses the phrase “absence of evidence” with regard to the Exodus. There is an oft-repeated adage in Biblical and archaeological studies with regard to efforts to reconstruct events of thousands of years ago from the bits and tatters of information that have survived: “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Rather than blindly accepting a learned scholar’s argument from silence to dismiss the factuality of the Exodus, let us look at the reality of the situation.

Where would one expect to find written records of the presence of Israel in Egypt, or of the Exodus? In Rameses, of course, the place where the Israelites were settled when Jacob and his family entered Egypt (Gn 47:11), where the Israelites labored as slaves (Ex 1:11) and where they departed under the leadership of Moses (Ex 12:37; Nm 33:3). Fortunately, we know a lot about Rameses, modern Tell el-Daba in the northeastern Nile delta, since it has been excavated almost continuously since 1966. What historical records have been found from the time period of the Exodus at ancient Rameses? Exactly nothing! In fact, the only historical document to be found from any period from all of the excavations in the area of ancient Rameses over a period of more than 40 years is one small 2x2 in (5x5 cm) fragment of a clay tablet. It appears to be part of a letter from the king of the Hittite empire to Rameses II (ca. 1290–1224 BC) concerning terms of a peace treaty between the two parties.

Surviving Egyptian inscriptions were, for the most part, propagandistic records carved in stone extolling the accomplishments of the god-king Pharaohs. An event that demeaned Pharaoh or Egypt would never be recorded. Moreover, writing was believed to be sacred, giving reality to the statements being recorded. If an event was not recorded, then it was as though it had never happened (Wheeler 2002).

And why did not Moses identify the Pharaohs of the oppression and Exodus? Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen provides the answer (1986):

[Pharaoh is] the common OT title for the kings of ancient Egypt. It derives from a phrase used for the royal palace and court until the New Kingdom when, in the mid-18th Dynasty, it came to be used of the king himself. It first so occurs under Thutmose III and IV (15th cent. B.C.), then with Ikhnaton (ca. 1360), and thereafter frequently…The biblical and Egyptian uses of “pharaoh” correspond closely. Thus in the Pentateuch “Pharaoh” is used without a proper name precisely as in Egypt…From the 10th cent. B.C. onward “Pharaoh” plus a proper name became common usage; cf. Pharaoh Hophra [Jer 44:30] and Pharaoh Neco [2 Kgs 23:29–35; 2 Chr 35:20–22; 36:3–4; Jer 46:2].

Map of excavation areas at Rameses in the northeastern delta. A number of ancient cities were located in this region, requiring excavations over a large area. The locale is generally referred to as Tell el-Daba, after the name of the village where archaeological investigations began. In actual fact, however, excavations have been carried out at a number of small agricultural villages in the vicinity. The royal precinct at the time of the Exodus was located at Ezbet Helmi, indicated by the red circle. When Jacob and his family came to Egypt, Joseph “gave them property in the best part of the land, the district of Rameses” (Gn 47:11). An Asiatic settlement from the time of Joseph was found at Tell el-Daba, quite possibly the very place where Jacob and his family settled. The Egyptian town at that time was called Rowaty, “the door of the two roads” (12th–13th Dynasties). Later, from the late 18th century BC to ca. 1555 BC, the town was known as Avaris, “the royal foundation of the district” (13th, 15th Dynasties). From ca. 1555 BC until the site was abandoned at the time of the Exodus it was named Perunefer, “happy journey” (18th Dynasty). The royal city of Rameses II in the 13th century BC, named Rameses, is located in the area labeled “Town Center 19th Dyn.” to the north. (From Bietak and Foster-Müller 2005: 66)

On a more positive note, I believe there is evidence for the presence of Israel in Egypt, albeit indirect. First, there is evidence for Asiatic slaves in Egypt during the period of the Sojourn, some even bearing Biblical names (Aling 2002; Hoffmeier 1997: 61– 62, 112–16; Luft 1993; David 1986: 189–93). Some of them were called “Habiru” (Hoffmeier 1997: 116), a designation for stateless individuals from which the name Hebrew may derive. Secondly, the earliest Asiatic settlement at Tell el-Daba has all the earmarks of being Israelite, including a four-room house, a plan adopted by the Israelites when they became sedentary during the judges period, and a tomb which is possibly that of Joseph (Wood 1977).

No Evidence for a Conquest

The second major argument raised against the validity of the Exodus account is that archaeological evidence demonstrates that the Conquest as described in the book of Joshua is unhistorical (McKenzie 2008: 121):

Excavation over the past half century has revealed no evidence of destruction, and in some cases no occupation…for most of the cities…supposedly conquered by the invading Israelites. The two most famous examples, Jericho and Ai, are transparent etiologies [stories made up to explain something, such as a ruin]. Ai means “ruin.” The city [identified by the author as et- Tell] was abandoned before the Late Bronze Age and resettled as an unwalled village after 1200. It was, therefore, already a “ruin” when the Israelites supposedly conquered it, and the story explains how it became one. Jericho [according to the dating of Kathleen Kenyon] also was unwalled at the time of the supposed conquest. It had once stood as one of the world’s oldest cities and a symbol of the greatness of the Canaanite culture. Its acquisition by Israel, therefore, symbolized the complete possession of the land.

Since there was no Conquest, the Israelites could not have wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, ergo, no Exodus.

As readers of Bible and Spade know, evidence for the Conquest is one of our favorite subjects, and we have published a number of articles on the topic (on Ai: Wood 1999a, 1999b, 2000a, 2000b, 2000c, 2001, 2003: 264–68, 2008c; see also Briggs 2005; on Jericho: Wood 1987, 1990, 1999c, 2003: 262–64; see also Ashley and Aust 2003), so we will not repeat that information here. Suffice it to say that the supposed discrepancies between the archaeological findings and the Biblical record concerning the Conquest are due to bad scholarship and improper interpretation of the archaeological data, not on any shortcomings of the Bible. In fact, archaeology, when properly understood, demonstrates the accuracy and eyewitness nature of the Biblical text with regard to Conquest events.

ABR Photographer Michael Luddeni on the base of what was once a colossal statue of Rameses II, estimated to have been 33 ft (10 m) tall, in Qantir, ancient Rameses. The tops of the cartouches (name ellipses) of Rameses II are barely visible behind the vegetation in front of the base. After Rameses II built his capital city here in the 13th century BC, the full name of which was “The House of Rameses Beloved of Amun Great of Victories,” the area became known as Rameses, including Perunefer 1.25 mi (2 km) to the southwest, the city the Israelites departed from in 1446 BC. The commonly known name Rameses appears in Genesis, Exodus and Numbers rather than the earlier names (Rowaty, Avaris and Perunefer), which had gone out of use.

The Thirteenth Century Exodus Theory

Those who believe that there was an actual Exodus generally fall into two camps: those that believe that it happened in the 13th century BC, and those that believe that it happened in the 15th century BC. We shall begin by briefly reviewing the 13th century theory. The two main reasons put forward for placing the Exodus in the 13th century BC are the mention of the city of Rameses in Exodus 1:11 and the destruction of Hazor recorded in Joshua 11:11.

Exodus 1:11

In Exodus 1:11 we read:

So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.

As mentioned above, the ancient city of Rameses built by Rameses the Great (Rameses II) is well known from Egyptian records and archaeological excavation. Thus, it is presumed that the Israelites helped build Rameses II’s capital city and that they were still in Egypt in the 13th century BC. Since we know from the Merenptah, or Israel, Stela that Israel was in Canaan early in the reign of Rameses II’s son Merenptah, ca. 1220 BC (Wood 2005a), the Exodus must have taken place 40 years or more prior to that, during the reign of Rameses II. This particular theory has gained favor with many scholars and, as a result, Rameses II is the Pharaoh of the Exodus in Hollywood and the popular media. There are, however, insurmountable obstacles associated with this reconstruction.

Disagreement with Biblical Chronology

A proponent of the “late” date for the Exodus is immediately confronted with the fact that this date is in disagreement with the internally consistent chronology of the Bible. The way scholars who favor this date deal with the Biblical data is to either explain it away or ignore it.

1. 1 Kings 6:1. The primary Scripture for determining the date of the Exodus is 1 Kings 6:1, which states:

In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the Lord.

Late-date proponents explain away this Scripture by saying that the 480 years cannot be taken literally, but must be understood as a figurative number. It is really 12 idealized generations of 40 years each. Since an actual generation is on the order of 25 years, the real time interval from Solomon’s fourth year to the Exodus is only 12 x 25 = 300 years. When we add this number to Solomon’s fourth year, 967 BC (Young, this issue, 121 n. 11), voilà, we have a year smack-dab in the reign of Rameses II, 1267 BC! Of course, this is an approximation, so the actual date could vary a few years either way from 1267.

In reality, the time interval between the Exodus and Solomon’s fourth year was 479 years, not 480, thus invalidating the 12 generations concept. The Israelites left Rameses in year 1, month 1, day 15 of the Exodus era (Ex 12:1; Num 33:3). Since Solomon began to build the Temple in year 480, month 2, the elapsed time was 479 years plus between 15 and 45 days. In addition, we know from genealogical data that there were more than 12 generations between the Exodus and Solomon’s fourth year. From Heman the musician, who lived in the time of David, back to Korah, who lived in the time of Moses, there were 18 generations (1 Chr 6:33–37). Adding one additional generation takes us to the time of Solomon, resulting in a total of 19 generations, far more than the imagined 12 generations of the late-date theorists.

To determine the correct year of the Exodus, we simply add 479 to Solomon’s fourth year, 967 BC, resulting in 1446 BC.

2. Judges 11:26. In this passage Jephthah tells the king of Ammon that Israel had been living in the land for 300 years prior to the beginning of the Ammonite oppression. Although we do not know precisely when the Ammonite oppression began, it had to have been sometime around 1100 BC (Davis 2008: 153; Ray 2005: 99; Steinmann 2005: 499), placing the Conquest at ca. 1400 BC and the Exodus in the mid-15th century BC. The only explanation for Judges 11:26 from the late-date camp that I am aware of is that of Kitchen (2003b: 209), who claims that Jephthah did not know what he was talking about:

Brave fellow that he was, Jephthah was a roughneck, an outcast, and not exactly the kind of man who would scruple first to take a Ph.D. in local chronology at some ancient university of the Yarmuk before making strident claims to the Ammonite ruler. What we have is nothing more than the report of a brave but ignorant man’s bold bluster in favor of his people, not a mathematically precise chronological datum.

3. 1 Chronicles 6:33–37. As explained above, the genealogy of Heman in 1 Chronicles 6:33–37 results in 19 generations from the time of Moses to the time of Solomon. If we use the rule of thumb of 25 years per generation, we obtain 19 x 25 = 475 years, very close to the more precise figure of 479 years in 1 Kings 6:1. Proponents of the late date have not provided an explanation for 1 Chronicle 6:33–37, as far as I know.

4. Ezekiel 40:1. As Rodger Young has pointed out (this issue, 115–17) this verse provides a precise date for a Jubilee year in 574 BC. According to Jewish sources, this was the 17th Jubilee. The first year of this Jubilee cycle was 622 BC (49 inclusive years). Going back 16 Jubilee cycles to when counting began brings us to 622 + (16 x 49) = 1406 BC, the year the Israelites crossed the Jordan and entered Canaan. Since this was exactly 40 years from when the Israelites left Egypt (Dt 1:3; Jos 4:19, 5:10), the date of the Exodus can be precisely fixed at 1446 BC, independently of 1 Kings 6:1. The late-date camp is yet to respond to this precise method of determining the date of the Exodus.

Palace of Jabin King of Hazor, massively destroyed by fire in the second half of the 13th century BC. But which Jabin, the one of Joshua 11 or Judges 4? Advocates of a 13th century BC Exodus claim that it was destroyed during the Conquest under Joshua. This cannot be, however, because then there would be no city for Deborah and Barak to conquer in Judges 4 since Hazor was not rebuilt until the time of Solomon.

Disagreement with Biblical History

A close reading of the context of Exodus 1:11 makes it clear that the 13th century model is incompatible with the Biblical narrative. If Hebrew slaves were involved in the construction of the new capital of Rameses II, the work would have started early in Rameses II’s reign, ca. 1280 BC. Using the 12-generation concept for the 480 years of 1 Kgs 6:1 places the Exodus just 13 years later in 1267 BC. It is not possible to fit the events between the building of the store cities and the Exodus (Ex 1:11–12:36) into a 13-year timespan.

• Following the building of Pithom and Rameses the Israelites experienced a growth in population: “the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread” (Ex 1:12), which had to have taken place over a considerable period of time.

• This was followed by an escalation of the oppression (Ex 1:13–14).

• Next, the king decreed that male Hebrew babies should be put to death (Ex 1:15–19). When the midwives ignored the order, “the people increased and became even more numerous” (Ex 1:20), again indicating a long passage of time.

• Moses was born during the time of the ban on male babies.

• At age 40 (Acts 7:23), Moses fled to Midian, during which time “the king of Egypt died” (Ex 2:23) and those seeking Moses’ life died (Ex 4:19).

• After Moses’ return from Midian, the Exodus occurred when Moses was 80 years old (Ex 7:7).

Thus, the building of the store cities in Exodus 1:11 had to have occurred over a century prior to the beginning of the construction of Rameses II’s delta capital, long before Rameses II was even born. The appearance of the name Rameses in this passage and in Genesis 47:11 are examples of editorial updating of a name that went out of use. After the construction of Rameses II’s capital, the area came to be known as Rameses from that time forward. Other examples of such updating are Bethel (Gn 12:8; 13:3; 28:19), Dan (Gn 14:14; Dt 34:1; Jgs 18:29) and Samaria (1 Kgs 13:32; 16:24).

Plan of the royal precinct from the time of Moses. Within the enclosure wall were three palaces, F, G and J. The largest, G, was undoubtedly the official dwelling of Pharaoh when he was in residence at Perunefer. As the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter (Hansen 2003), Moses undoubtedly spent much time here, as well as in the capital city of Memphis. Proponents of the 13th century date for the Exodus once said that there was no royal residence in the eastern delta in the mid-15th century BC, so the Exodus must have happened in the 13th century BC when Rameses II had his capital there (e.g., Kitchen 2003b: 310, 319, 344, 353 no. 4, 567 n. 17, 635). Excavations in the 1990s put this objection to rest. (Adapted from Bietak and Forster-Müller 2005: 69.)

Another strike against the 13th century scenario is Psalm 136:15, which strongly indicates that the Pharaoh of the Exodus perished in the Reed Sea. Rameses II lived over 40 years beyond the proposed Exodus date of 1267 BC.

Destruction of Hazor

The book of Joshua tells us that the Israelites destroyed three cities by fire: Jericho (Jos 6:24), Ai (Jos 8:28) and Hazor (Jos 11:11). Evidence for destruction by fire should readily be discernable in the archaeological record, making these cities a primary focus of Conquest research. The second major pillar of the 13th century theory is that Hazor was destroyed at the right time to fit this time frame. Excavations have revealed that the city was massively destroyed by fire toward the end of the 13th century BC, most likely by the Israelites (Ben Tor 2006, 1998; Ben Tor and Rubiato 1999). The date of the destruction can be fixed at “1230 (or soon after)” based on inscriptional data (Kitchen 2003a: 27; low Egyptian chronology). But, if we assign this destruction to the Conquest, there would be no city for Deborah and Barak to conquer later on in the time of the judges (Jgs 4–5), since Hazor was not rebuilt until the tenth century BC in the time of Solomon (1 Kgs 9:15). Kitchen explains,

after Joshua’s destruction of Hazor [in 1230 BC], Jabin I’s successors had to reign from another site in Galilee but kept the style of king of the territory and kingdom of Hazor (2003b: 213).

But where was this new capital located? Kitchen does not offer a candidate. Surveys in the region have determined that there was a gap in occupation in the area of Hazor and the Upper Galilee from ca. 1230 BC to ca. 1100 BC (Finkelstein 1988: 107), ruling out Kitchen’s solution to this major problem for the late-date theory. Not only is there no evidence at Hazor to support the late-date theory, but no evidence for occupation in the late 13th century BC has been found at Jericho (Marchetti 2003) or Ai (= Khirbet el-Maqatir; Wood 1999a, 1999b, 2000a, 2000b, 2000c, 2001, 2008c).

There are a number of other less persuasive reasons given in support of a 13th century date for the Exodus, some of which I have dealt with in a series of articles critiquing the 13th century theory (Wood 2005b, 2007; Young and Wood 2008).

An Exodus in 1446 BC

We have outlined above the chronological data in the Bible that demonstrate that the Exodus took place in 1446 BC. This is supported by evidence from Jericho, Ai and Hazor showing that all three sites were burned by fire at the end of the 15th century BC, the time frame for the Conquest based on a 1446 BC Exodus. At Jericho, not only is there evidence for destruction by fire, but also that the destruction took place just after the harvest, the city walls fell, the siege of the city was short, and the city was not plundered, as the Bible records (Wood 1987, 1990, 1999c, 2003: 262–64; Ashley and Aust 2003). Our excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir have demonstrated that it meets all of the Biblical requirements to be identified as Joshua’s Ai, including destruction by fire (Wood 1999a, 1999b, 2000a, 2000b, 2000c, 2001, 2003: 264–68, 2008c; Briggs 2005). At Hazor, the burning of Stratum XV/2 and the destruction of temples give evidence of the Israelite conquest of the city (Janeway 2003: 95; Wood 2003: 268–69).

The Pharaoh of the Exodus

A nagging question is, “who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus?” Psalm 136:15 would lead us to believe that the Pharaoh of the Exodus died in the Sea of Reeds. All we need to do, then, to identify the Pharaoh of the Exodus is find a Pharaoh who died in 1446 BC. But this is no easy task. With our present Egyptian chronologies, we cannot pinpoint the death date of a particular Pharaoh to 1446 BC. There are three sets of dates in use: high, middle and low. They vary by as much as 25 years and, according to the three chronologies, there was no Pharaoh who died in 1446 BC. Presently, the most plausible solution is that of William Shea, who believes he has found evidence that a Pharaoh died in 1446 BC and his death was covered up by Egyptian officials (2003a, 2003b: 245–48). Egyptian theology would not allow for the god-king to die while pursuing runaway slaves. By not recording the event, it would be as if it had never happened (Wheeler 2002).

Shea believes that Amenhotep II was the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Based on the high Egyptian chronology, Amenhotep II took the throne in 1450 BC, immediately after the death of his father Tuthmosis III. Four years later, according to Shea’s theory, he perished in the Reed Sea in 1446 BC. He was then replaced with another king who was given the same name and the entire incident was hushed up. But Shea has uncovered scribal slip-ups that left clues as to what had happened. As a result, it appears that there were two Amenhotep IIs who ruled from 1450 to 1425 BC: Amenhotep IIA, 1450–1446 BC, and Amenhotep IIB, 1446–1425 BC. Although the tomb of Amenhotep II in the Valley of Kings in Luxor (KV 35) is not that of the Pharaoh of the Exodus, but that of Amenhotep IIB, we do have some connections with the first Amenhotep II.

Amenhotep IIA at Perunefer

The events of Exodus 2–12 transpired in the royal delta city called Rameses in the Bible. This is a later name for the city, which was earlier known as Rowaty during the days of Joseph and Jacob, then Avaris during the oppression and Perunefer in the time of Moses. Finally, in the 13th century BC, Rameses II built a great capital there and it became known a Rameses from that time on. The royal residency from Moses’ day has been excavated, giving the backdrop against which the confrontation between Yahweh and the gods of Egypt took place (Wood 2008a, 2008b).

Amenhotep IIA as a child in the garden at Perunefer, tomb of Kenamun, Valley of the Nobles, Luxor. Young Amenhotep II sits on the lap of his nurse Amenemopet, mother of Kenamun, with attendants before them. Note that Amenhotep II’s feet are on a footstool with a representation of Egypt’s enemies, illustrating Psalm 110:1: “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’”

During the 15th Dynasty, ca. 1663–1555 BC, Egypt was ruled by Hyksos (foreign rulers) from southern Canaan who had their capital at Avaris. After the native Egyptians overthrew the Hyksos and drove them back to Canaan, Avaris was taken over by the Egyptians and renamed Perunefer. The tomb of Kenamun in the Valley of Nobles (number TT 93) puts us in touch with individuals associated with Perunefer and the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Kenamun’s mother Amenemopet was the nurse of Amenhotep II, undoubtedly Amenhotep IIA. Perhaps as a result of his mother’s connections with the royal family, Kenamun served as Superintendant of the Dockyard at Perunefer and later as Chief Steward of Amenhotep II, a position similar to that of Joseph (“over my [Pharaoh’s] house, Gn 41:40). In the tomb are several paintings of Amenhotep II, including a painting of young Amenhotep II on Amenemopet’s lap at Perunefer. As a young man Amenhotep IIA was famous for his athletic abilities and bravado. Translator John Wilson commented:

The pharaoh who has left us the most numerous records of his physical prowess was Amen-hotep II…Amen-hotep II… gloried in his reputation for personal strength and prowess. His records therefore contrast with those of his predecessor and father, Thut-mose III, in emphasizing individual achievement (1969: 244, 245).

A stela found near the Sphinx at Giza tells of Amenhotep IIA’s superhuman skills as a horseman, archer, runner and rower. Here is an excerpt:

He was one who knew horses: there was not his like in this numerous army. There was not one therein who could draw his bow. He could not be approached in running. Strong of arms, one who did not weary he took the oar, he rowed at the stern of his falcon-boat as the stroke for 200 men. When there was a pause, after they attained half an iter’s course [about 1 km], they were weak, their bodies limp, they could not draw a breath, whereas his majesty was (still) strong under his oar of 20 cubits in length [ca. 34 ft] (Wilson 1969: 244).

Relief memorializing Amenhotep IIA’s archery skills, Luxor Museum. The king is depicted shooting arrows through a copper ingot while driving a chariot at full speed. The feat is described in texts as well. The Sphinx stela says: “He entered into his northern garden and found that there had been set up for him four targets of Asiatic copper of one palm thickness [a little less than 3 in], with 20 cubits [ca. 34 ft] between one post and its fellow. Then his majesty appeared in a chariot like Montu [Egyptian god of war] in his power. He grasped his bow and gripped four arrows at the same time. So he rode northward, shooting at them like Montu in his regalia. His arrows had come out on the back thereof while he was attacking another post. It was really a deed which had never been done nor heard of by report: shooting at a target of copper an arrow which came out of it and dropped to the ground—except for the king” (Wilson 1969: 244).

In the third year of his reign, 1447 BC, one year before the Exodus, Amenhotep IIA led his first military campaign. It was to the area of “Takhshi,” in the vicinity of Damascus, Syria. The record of that campaign begins in a boastful manner typical of the other records of his reign:

He is a king very weighty of arm: there is none who can draw his bow in his army, among the rulers of foreign countries, or the princes of Retenu [Syria-Lebanon], because his strength is so much greater than (that of) any (other) king who has existed. Raging like a panther when he treads the field of battle; there is none who can fight in his vicinity…Prevailing instantly over every foreign country, whether people or horses, (though) they have come in millions of men, (for) they knew not that Amon-Re [creator sun god] was loyal to him (Wilson 1969: 247).

Amenhotep II before Amon-Re at Perunefer, found in secondary use at Bubastis. The inscription reads, “Pre-eminent in Perunefer, the great god, lord of heaven” and “the king of the gods, lord of heaven, residing in Perunefer” (Habachi 2001: 106).

The text then goes on to describe Amenhotep IIA’s brutal treatment of seven enemy princes of Takhshi:

His majesty returned in joy of heart to his father Amon, when he had slain with his own mace the seven princes who had been in the district of Takhshi, who had been put upside down at the prow of his majesty’s falcon-boat…Then six men of these enemies were hanged on the face of the wall of Thebes, and the hands as well. Then the other foe was taken upstream to the land of Nubia and hanged on the wall of Napata [near the Fourth Cataract of the Nile] to show his majesty’s victories forever and ever in all lands and all countries of the Negro land; inasmuch as he had carried off the southerners and bowed down the northerners, the (very) ends of the entire earth upon which Re [the sun god] shines, (so that) he might set forth his frontier where he wishes without being opposed, according to the decree of his father Re (Wilson 1969: 248).

The boastful and arrogant attitude of Amenhotep IIA matches that of the Pharaoh of the Exodus described in the Bible. When Moses first confronted the Egyptian king, his response was, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go” (Ex 5:2). His cruelty can be seen in his withholding the straw the Israelites needed for making mud bricks (Ex 5:6–9). In addition, he was stubborn and went back on his word on numerous occasions. Even after the death of the first-born, when he finally let the Israelites go, he reneged and pursued them. In spite of his human strength and abilities, Amenhotep IIA and his army were no match for the God of Israel.

The residency was suddenly abandoned during the reign of Amenhotep II, with no known reason:

The palace district was probably abandoned after the reign of Amenophis II [=Amenhotep II]…The reason for the abandonment of this district, and, presumably, the entire city adjoining the district on the south is an unsolved puzzle at this time. Its solution would be of the greatest importance to historians. The suggestion that the peaceful foreign policy of the late reign of Amenophis II and Tuthmose IV made this militarily important settlement unnecessary is not convincing. A plague, such as the one documented for Avaris in the late Middle Kingdom, and associated with Avaris in later tradition, appears to be the most likely solution of this problem, although it cannot be proven at this time (Bietak and Forstner-Müller 2005: 93, 95; translation by ABR Board member Walter Pasedag).

Although Egyptian history does not provide an answer for this abandonment, Exodus 7–14 certainly does. As a result of the 10 plagues and the death of Pharaoh in the Sea of Reeds Perunefer became an unsuitable, or undesirable, place to live. With the Israelites and their God gone, it appears that the Egyptians quickly put a new Pharaoh on the throne, gave him the same name as the previous Pharaoh, and tried to put things back to normal, including making sure that none of these events were recorded in the history books.

The Asiatic Campaigns of Amenhotep IIB

Following the death of Amenhotep IIA in the fifth year of his reign in 1446 BC, there were two military campaigns of Amenhotep IIB to Syria-Palestine during the seventh (1444 BC) and ninth (1442 BC) years of his reign (Shea 2003a: 45–46, 2003b: 247). The tone of the records of these campaigns is much different than the earlier inscriptions of Amenhotep IIA—no arrogant and bombastic bragging here. Amenhotep IIB had been humbled by what had taken place in Egypt in 1446 BC. It appears that the main purpose of these campaigns was to replenish lost wealth, slaves, military personnel and military equipment. The table below lists the captives and booty brought back (Wilson 1969: 246, 247).

From these records we gain insight into the Egyptian reconstruction plan following the Exodus. The first two years were spent rebuilding the Egyptian army as much as possible. In year seven a campaign was mounted to Syria with the partially reconstituted army to regain a portion of what Egypt had lost in the Exodus events. The results were comparable to earlier campaigns of Tuthmosis III. Another two years were then spent integrating the new personnel and equipment into the army, as well as using the newly acquired wealth to manufacture additional war materiel. Egypt was now prepared to launch the mother of all raids in 1442 BC. The captives and booty taken in that campaign were several orders of magnitude greater than any other recorded Egyptian campaign. This brought Egypt back to what it was prior to 1446 BC, ready to once again resume its role as one of the ancient world’s greatest superpowers.

Defacing of Hatshepsut’s Image

There is one other event in Egyptian history that might be related to the Exodus. The image and name of Hatshepsut, aunt, step-mother and co-regent with Tuthmosis III, was systematically removed from monuments throughout Egypt. The explanation most often given is that when Tuthmosis III came of age, there was a power struggle resulting in the forceful removal of Hatshepsut from power in ca. 1483 BC. A backlash from this event was the systematic removal of references to her rule. There are a number of problems with this interpretation, however. The main one is that there is evidence the desecration did not begin until sometime after Tuthmosis III’s 42nd year of reign, over 20 years after he became sole ruler (Petrovich 2006: 108). It is possible that the desecration was carried out during the reign of Amenhotep II. If so, the Exodus could provide a more reasonable explanation. Hatshepsut is the most likely candidate for the princess who adopted Moses (Ex 2:10; Hansen 2003). If so, Amenhotep IIB might have held her responsible for the events of 1446 BC and thus carried out a campaign to remove her name and image from history.

Defaced image of Hatshepsut. The outline of Hatshepsut seated on a throne clearly can be seen in this relief in the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri, Luxor, Egypt. Hatshepsut’s likeness and her cartouches above were systematically chiseled away as part of a nationwide campaign to remove her name and image from Egyptian history. Possibly this was done because she was the princess who adopted Moses, and thus was held responsible for the events of the Exodus.


Biblical and extra-Biblical evidence clearly point to 1446 BC as the date of the Exodus. Critics say the lack of any reference to this event in the records of ancient Egypt is proof that the Exodus never happened. We should not expect to find such written records, however, because of the lack of historical records of any kind from Rameses and the Egyptian penchant for keeping negative events from their history by not recording them. An Asiatic settlement at the site of Rameses from the time of Joseph and records of Asiatic slaves from the period of the sojourn provide indirect evidence that the Israelites were in Egypt. A royal residence from the time of Moses fitting the Biblical description has now been found at Rameses. Royal inscriptions indicate that there were two Pharaohs with the name Amenhotep II—the first being the Pharaoh of the Exodus who perished in the Reed Sea in 1446 BC and the second a replacement who campaigned in Syria-Palestine to replenish the wealth, slaves and army lost in the Exodus.

Bryant G. Wood, ABR Director of Research, is principal archaeologist and director of ABR’s excavation at Khirbet el-Maqatir. He has a MS in Nuclear Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a MA in Biblical History from the University of Michigan, and a PhD in Syro-Palestinian Archaeology from the University of Toronto.


Aling, Charles
2002 Joseph in Egypt: Second of Six Parts. Bible and Spade 15: 35–38.

Ashley, Scott, and Aust, Jerold
2003 Jericho: Does the Evidence Disprove or Prove the Bible? Bible and Spade 16: 54–56.

Ben Tor, Amnon
1998 The Fall of Canaanite Hazor—The “Who” and “When” Questions. Pp. 465–67 in Mediterranean Peoples in Transition, Thirteenth to Early Tenth Centuries BCE, eds. Seymour Gitin, Amihai Mazar and Ephraim Stern. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.

2006 The Sad Fate of Statues and the Mutilated Statues of Hazor. Pp. 3–16 in Confronting the Past: Archaeological and Historical Essays on Ancient Israel in Honor of William G. Dever, eds. Seymour Gitin, J. Edward Wright and Jack P. Dessel. Winona Lake IN: Eisenbrauns.
Ben Tor, Amnon, and Rubiato, Maria T. 1999 Excavating Hazor Part Two: Did the Israelites Destroy the Canaanite City? Biblical Archaeology Review 25.3: 22–39.
Bietak, Manfred, and Foster-Müller, Irene 2005 Ausgrabung eines Palastbezirkes der Tuthmosidenzeit bei ‘Ezbet Helmi/Tell el-Dab‘a, Vorbericht für Herbst 2004 und Frühjahr 2005. Egypt and the Levant 15: 65–100.
Briggs, Peter 2005 Testing the Factuality of the Conquest of Ai Narrative in the Book of Joshua. Pp. 157–96 in Beyond the Jordan: Studies in Honor of W. Harold Mare, ed. Glenn A. Carnagey, Sr. Eugene OR: Wipf & Stock.
David, A. Rosalie
1986 The Pyramid Builders of Ancient Egypt: A Modern Investigation of Pharaoh’s Workforce. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Davies, Norman de Garis
1930 The Tomb of Ken-amun at Thebes. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Davis, John J.
2008 Conquest and Crisis, 3rd ed. Winona Lake IN: BMH Books.

Finkelstein, Israel
1988 The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.

Habachi, Labib
2001 Khata‘na-Qantir or Avaris-Piramesse. Pp. 23–127 in Tell el-Dab‘a I: Tell el-Dab‘a and Qantir, the Site and its Connection with Avaris and Piramesse, ed. Ernst Czerny. Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie 23. Vienna: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften.

Hansen, David G.
2003 Moses and Hatshepsut. Bible and Spade 16: 14–20.

Hoffmeier, James K.
1997 Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. New York: Oxford University.

Johnstone, William
2007 Exodus, Book of. Pp. 371–80 in The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible 2, ed. Katharine D. Sakenfeld. Nashville: Abingdon.

Janeway, Brian
2003 Hazor 2002. Bible and Spade 16: 92–96.

Kitchen, Kenneth A.
1986 Pharaoh. P. 821 in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 3, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans.

2003a An Egyptian Inscribed Fragment from Late Bronze Hazor. Israel Exploration Journal 53: 20–28.
2003b On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids MI: Eisenbrauns
Luft, Ulrich
1993 Asiatics in Illahun: A Preliminary Report. Pp. 291–97 in Sesto Congresso Internazionale Di Egittologia: Atti 2, eds. Gian M. Zaccone and Tomasco R. di Netro. Torino, Italy: International Association of Egyptologists.

McKenzie, Steven L.
2008 Israel, History of. Pp. 117–31 in The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible 3, ed. Katharine D. Sakenfeld. Nashville: Abingdon.

Marchetti, Nicolò
2003 A Century of Excavations on the Spring Hill at Tell Es-Sultan, Ancient Jericho: A Reconstruction of Its Stratigraphy. Pp. 295–321 in The Synchronisation of Civilisations in the Eastern Mediterranean in the Second Millennium B.C. 2, ed. Manfred Bietak. Vienna: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften.

Naville, Edouard H.
1891 Bubastis (1887–1889). Egypt Exploration Fund Memoir 8. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner.

Oblath, Michael D.
2007 Exodus, Route of. Pp. 380–83 in The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible 2, ed. Katharine D. Sakenfeld. Nashville: Abingdon.

Petrovich, Douglas
2006 Amenhotep II and the Historicity of the Exodus-Pharaoh. The Master’s Seminary Journal 17: 81–110.

Ray, Paul J., Jr.
2005 Another Look at the Period of the Judges. Pp. 93–104 in Beyond the Jordan, ed. Glenn A. Carnagey, Sr. Eugene OR: Wipf & Stock.

Shea, William H.
2003a Amenhotep II as Pharaoh of the Exodus. Bible and Spade 16: 41– 51.

2003b The Date of the Exodus. Pp. 236–55 in Giving the Sense: Understanding and Using Old Testament Historical Texts, eds. David M. Howard, Jr., and Michael A. Grisanti. Grand Rapids MI: Kregel.
Steinmann, Andrew E.
2005 The Mysterious Numbers of the Book of Judges. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 48: 491–500.

Wheeler, Gerald
2002 Ancient Egypt’s Silence about the Exodus. Andrews University Seminary Studies 40: 257–64.

Wilson, John A.
1969 Egyptian Historical Texts. Pp. 227–64 in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd. ed., ed. James B. Pritchard. Princeton: Princeton University.

Wood, Bryant G.
1987 Uncovering the Truth at Jericho. Archaeology and Biblical Research Premier Issue: 6–16.

1990 Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho? A New Look at the Archaeological Evidence. Biblical Archaeology Review 16.2: 44–59.
1997 The Sons of Jacob: New Evidence for the Presence of the Israelites in Egypt. Bible and Spade 10: 53–65.
1999a Kh. el-Maqatir 1999 Dig Report. Bible and Spade 12: 109–14.
1999b The Search for Joshua’s Ai. Bible and Spade 12: 21–30.
1999c The Walls of Jericho. Bible and Spade 12: 35–42.
2000a Kh. el-Maqatir 2000 Dig Report. Bible and Spade 13: 67–72.
2000b Khirbet el-Maqatir, 1995–1998. Israel Exploration Journal 50: 123–30.
2000c Khirbet el-Maqatir, 1999. Israel Exploration Journal 50: 249–54.
2001 Khirbet el-Maqatir, 2000. Israel Exploration Journal 51: 246–52.
2003 From Ramesses to Shiloh: Archaeological Discoveries Bearing on the Exodus–Judges Period. Pp. 256–82 in Giving the Sense: Understanding and Using Old Testament Historical Texts, eds. David M. Howard, Jr., and Michael A. Grisanti. Grand Rapids MI: Kregel.
2005a Pharaoh Merenptah Meets Israel. Bible and Spade 18: 65–82.
2005b The Rise and Fall of the 13th-Century Exodus-Conquest Theory. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 48: 475–89.
2007 The Biblical Date for the Exodus is 1446 BC: A Response to James Hoffmeier. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50: 249– 58.
2008a New Discoveries at Rameses. Bible and Spade 21: 28–32.
2008b The Royal Precinct at Rameses. Bible and Spade 21: 21–27.
2008c The Search for Joshua’s Ai. Pp. 205–40 in Critical Issues in the Early History of Israel, eds. Richard S. Hess, Gerald A. Klingbeil and Paul J. Ray, Jr. Winona Lake IN: Eisenbrauns.
Young, Rodger C., and Wood, Bryant G.
2008 A Critical Analysis of the Evidence from Ralph Hawkins for a Late-Date Exodus-Conquest. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51: 225–43.

Recent Research on the Date and Setting of the Exodus.pdf (3.50 mb)

Comments Comment RSS

11/19/2009 8:37 PM #

What about David Rohl's work? "A Test of Time" makes many of the same points, but with the added precision of astronomical dates.

rob - 11/19/2009 8:37:45 PM

12/1/2009 10:52 AM #

Dear Rob (re: 11/18 post),


I would refer you to the following article on David Rohl's untenable changes to Egyptian chronology:

Henry Smith

ABR - 12/1/2009 10:52:38 AM

12/6/2009 1:47 AM #

Normally i like all of Dr. Wood's work but aren't you becoming too much like Bishop Ussher by providing exact dates when the Bible provides NO exact dates?

Also, in listening to his recent lecture and his emphatic claim that the Hebrew word should be translated 'reed' nor 'red' for the sea the israelites crossed during the exodus, i would like to know what proof do you have that there was an error or that God allowed an error in His word?

i hesitate when it comes to these claims for one needs to be careful not to legitimize arguments made by Ehrman/others and diminish the promise made by God.

Also wouldn't such translational claims open the door for the likes of Ross and others who freely re-translate the Bible in accordence to their own beliefs?

(keep in mind i am not attacking but just asking some questions for clarification of your position)

dr. david t. - 12/6/2009 1:47:05 AM

12/8/2009 10:11 AM #

Dear David...

Dr. Wood's view is NOT that the Bible is in error...simply that the English translation "Red Sea" is not the most natural rendering of the Hebrew text. The NT clearly says Red Sea, but not the OT Hebrew text. We maintain they are BOTH correct. The understanding of how they are correct and compatible is a good subject of investigation. I would refer you to Scott Lanser and Eric Schwartz's "The Red Sea in the NT" in the Winter 2008 issue of Bible and Spade:

Pertaining to dates, the Bible has an abundance of chronological data, which we attempt to synchronize with the extra-biblical dates. We don't hold the extra-biblical dates above Scripture. Here is an excellent article on the chronology of the Kingdom period, for example:


ABR - 12/8/2009 10:11:00 AM

12/9/2009 12:16 PM #

From my stud of the Bible, one does not neccessarily side with the 'natural rendering' for God may use the 'unnatural' definition for His purpose as well. I am not saying Dr. Wood is wrong, I am just being cautious. You may be right and both renderings are correct...but...

as for the latter response, i haven't checked the link but the other part didnot even come close to addressing my question.  Bishop uussher has been vilified for stating thatthe world was created in 4004 B.C., i was wondering if your organization is following his example and giving specific dates when such cannot be given.

dr. david t. - 12/9/2009 12:16:24 PM

12/9/2009 12:42 PM #

the dates we provide are based on our best understanding of the internal chronology of the Bible. THEN, we have to find external dates as an 'anchor point', because the Bible does not provide the external dates. The date that is almost universally agreed upon is the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC (although, some say 587!). There are other dates that are very well attested as well. From an anchor point such as the destruction of Jerusalem, we then use the internal chronology of the Bible to synchronize the dates further. ( Shishak's invasion of Israel, the reign of Cyrus of Persia, the invasion of Judah by the Assyrians, etc.). These events are well attested outside the Bible. Dr. Wood calculates the Exodus at 1446 BC from a variety of data, but the primary text is I Kings 6:1. Much of the rationale can be found here:

Pertaining to Bishop Ussher...we have much more extra biblical data today then at his time, so the ability to synchronize the dates has improved drastically. As far as the creation date of 4004 BC, there is reasonable debate with respect to our understanding of the geneaological data found in Genesis 5 and 11. We believe it is possible there are gaps (not errors) in the period between the Flood and Abraham, and therefore the creation date would be earlier. Our friends at AIG and CMI feel very strongly about this, whereas we believe there is more study to be done on the subject and the possibility is open for a different understanding.

Determining external dates is critical for finding evidence that illuminates the Bible. For example, pottery at Jericho dates from the same time period that Biblical chronology places the event. If we don't have anchor points, there would be no way to say X pottery fits (or does not fit) X Biblical date.

hope this helps!

ABR - 12/9/2009 12:42:47 PM

12/9/2009 12:48 PM #

oh..on the Red Sea....the Hebrew text reads 'Yam Suph'. There is nothing in the text itself that seems to suggest RED SEA. However, there is nothing 'wrong' with Red Sea, as it is clearly attested in the NT and clearly refers to the same event. I think Dr. Wood's point is that the Hebrew text by itself does not say Red Sea.


ABR - 12/9/2009 12:48:24 PM

12/10/2009 11:30 AM #

you miss my point. i think you are making a mistake by pinpointing the date which is going to backfire on you and make you look foolish and you will lose your credibility. just like whatussher did.  four reasons for this:

1. you base your 1446 date upon a anapproximation, the year solomon built his table. i have come across no evidence or publications that that has pinpointed the construction of the temple to 967 and solomon's 4thyear is also an approx.

2. your discussion looks at a replacement pharoah but you do not record if Amenhotep II had his eldest son die. i read this carefully and you totally skip this vital point.

3. you base your generational time frame on a subjective figure., then calibrate to fit ywhat you want it to be, similar to what the secular world does with C-14 dating

4. dating systems are fallible and should not be relied upon, they are not constructions of God but secular man and it would be best to allow a +/- approx. instead of staking your reputation on an exact year.

i am not saying that the exodus did not happen in the 15th century, i am saying you may be ruining your ministry because you are saying things God did not say nor indicate.

dr. david t. - 12/10/2009 11:30:38 AM

12/10/2009 1:34 PM #


If the biblical data are used as primary source material for constructing a model for the exodus-conquest-settlement phase of Israelite history, a satisfactory correlation is achieved between biblical history and external archaeological and historical evidence, as outlined below.

1. Date of the exodus-conquest

As reviewed above, the internal chronological data of the Hebrew Bible (1 Kgs 6:1; Judg 11:26, and 1 Chr 6:33–37) consistently support a date of 1446 BC for the exodus from Egypt and, consequently, a date of 1406–1400 BC for the conquest of Canaan. External supporting evidence for this dating comes from the Talmud. There, the last two Jubilees are recorded which allows one to back calculate to the first year of the first Jubilee cycle as 1406 BC. See:

Fall 2008 Bible and Spade: "Evidence for Inerrancy from a Second Unexpected Source: The Jubilee and Sabbatical Cycles"

2. Support from Palestinian archaeology

Evidence from the three sites that were destroyed by the Israelites during the conquest, i.e., Jericho, Ai, and Hazor, correlates well with the biblical date and descriptions of those destructions. Moreover, evidence for Eglon’s palace at Jericho (Judg 3:12–30), dating to ca. 1300 BC, and the destruction of Hazor by Deborah and Barak ca. 1230 BC (Judg 4:24) during the Judges period also support a late 15th century BC date for the conquest.

3. Support from Egyptian archaeology

a. Rameses

The area of Pi-Ramesse in the eastern delta has not only revealed evidence for a royal residence from the early 18th Dynasty, the time period of Moses according to biblical chronology, but also for a mid-19th century BC Asiatic settlement that could well be that of Jacob and his family shortly after their arrival in Egypt.This supports a 15th century exodus, as Jacob would had to have entered Egypt much later, in ca. 1700 BC, with a 13th century exodus.

b. Amarna Letters

The ‘apiru of the highlands of Canaan described in the Amarna Letters of the mid-14th century BC, conform to the biblical Israelites. The Canaanite kings remaining in the land wrote desperate messages to Pharaoh asking for help against the ‘apiru, who were “taking over” the lands of the king. Since the Israelites under Deborah and Barak were able to overthrow the largest city-state in Canaan in ca. 1230 BC and the Merenptah Stela indicates that Israel was the most powerful people group in Canaan in ca. 1210 BC, it stands to reason that the ‘apiru who were taking over the highlands in the previous century were none other than the Israelites.

c. Israel in Egyptian inscriptions

The mention of Israel in the Merenptah stela demonstrates that the 12 tribes were firmly established in Canaan by 1210 BC. It now appears that there is an even earlier mention of Israel in an Egyptian inscription. A column base fragment in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin preserves three names from a longer name list. The first two names clearly can be read as Ashkelon and Canaan, with the orthography suggesting a date in the 18th Dynasty. Manfred Görg has translated the third, partially preserved, name as Israel. Due to the similarity of these names to the names on the Merenptah stela, Görg suggests the name list may derive from the time of Rameses II, but adopting an older name sequence from the 18th Dynasty. This evidence, if it holds up to further scrutiny, would also support a 15th century BC exodus-conquest rather than a 13th century BC timeframe.

I Kings 6:1 "In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the LORD."

ABR - 12/10/2009 1:34:55 PM

12/10/2009 5:19 PM #

"As reviewed above, the internal chronological data of the Hebrew Bible (1 Kgs 6:1; Judg 11:26, and 1 Chr 6:33–37) consistently support a date of 1446 BC for the exodus"

I am going to disagree with you on this point as those verses do not indicate such a specific date.

" correlates well with the biblical date and descriptions of those destructions"

again i will disagree with you as the Bible does not give specific dates and it would be unwise to create one.

i could go on but i am not looking for a fight. what you have presented only makes a 15th century exodus possible/probable but not enough to pinpoint the date to 1446 B.C.

i think you people are playing a little too loose with the evidence to provide support for what you want things to be. there is nothing there that supports a exact date for the exodus.

it would be wiser to search for evidence to support the exodus than to secure a date. providing a date will not help people believe for they are looking for evidence not a number.

i will highly disagree with using an exact date because you can't prove that was the year it took place and you end up looking foolish. as your evidence says nothing about the exodus happening in the year 1446, it is all opinion.

again i am not arguing against the exodus just providing insight that giving exact dates is not very smart when all we have is limited evidence discovered.

dr. david tee - 12/10/2009 5:19:14 PM

1/16/2010 5:45 AM #

Most of the Article fails at a true biblical Chronology, because it lowers the dates of the united monarchy to fit with the extra biblical dating of the invasion of Shishak.  Thus the article is not a biblical chronology but is rather based on the Egyptian Chronology, which is full of problems.  A truly biblical date for the Exodus is 1492 (based on only internal evidence from the Bible plus the 586BC date for the destruction of the first temple).  However the apostle Paul and Josephus both Ignore the 480 year account in 1st kings, and therefore come up with even longer periods of time, thereby pushing the Exodus back into the 16th century BC.  Which coincidentally fits well both with the expulsion of the Hyksos and the Destruction of Jericho.

Mark - 1/16/2010 5:45:59 AM

1/16/2010 6:29 AM #

Dear Mark (re: 1/15/10 post),

Thanks for your comments. The 1492/1 date is derived from the Ussher chronology. The difference is found in the 45 additional years in the Divided Kingdom period. Extensive work has been done on this by Rodger Young. See here, including extensive bibliographical information for further study. The situation is not nearly as simple as you are characterizing it:

Further, the Apostle Paul made no such error. His epistles were written under the direction of the Holy Spirit, the infallible author of Scripture, who also authored the I Kings 6:1 text. The problem is not Paul, the problem is your interpretation of what Paul wrote.

Lastly, the destruction of Jericho DID NOT occur in the 16th century BC, it occured circa 1406 BC according to both Biblical chronology AND the evidence uncovered there by Kenyon and Garstang. Kenyon's dating conclusions were wrong by 150 years. See here:

The expulsion of the Hyksos has nothing to do with the Exodus or Conquest.

Henry Smith

ABR - 1/16/2010 6:29:23 AM

1/23/2010 10:53 AM #

I have a number of comments to add to the ongoing discussion, and in relation to Dr. Wood's 2008 article. I will need numerous entries to accomplish this. Let me say how beneficial it is have such a running forum, which--among other possibilities--can be used as a wonderful instrument for honing our understanding (iron sharpening iron).

First, my dear friend Henry Smith is correct about Rohl's work. I, as does Rob, believe in the precision of astronomical evidence for establishing sound Egyptian chronologies for the 12th and 18th Dynasties. However, Rohl's work and astronomical evidence are two mutually exclusive entities, at least to date.

As for Dr. T.'s comment doubting attempts to identify the exact year of the exodus, there is much that can be said in reply. I will attempt to accomplish this despite saying little. He needs to consult important works on chronology, Thiele's lifelong work being first on the list.

Next, he needs to consult the writings of Rodger Young, cited in Dr. Wood's article. These refine and update Thiele's monumental work. Young's work is sound and exceedingly persuasive. He is correct in assigning 1446 as the proper year of the exodus. In my article, cited in Dr. Wood's article, I even demostrate how it is that we know the exact day of the exodus, on our own calender (25 April, on a Sat morning).

There is absolutely nothing wrong with making such claims, IF the evidence available makes this possible. I would suggest that Dr. T. read my article and make judgments afterward.

The final point to make about this matter is that the Bible is absolutely littered with such precise chronological statements, especially the OT. Thus, to God, the precise recording of historical events and the wedding of these events to known historical pegs is something of vital importance. If it is important to God, why would it be of non-importance to us?

As important as practical matters discussed in the Bible (marriage, law, relationships with others, how we interact with unbelievers, etc.) are to life, we sell short that which is important to God if this is the only thing of importance to us. The extreme of such a focus on "what is practical to me" is that the focus is on "me", and not on God. We would be better to say, "What is important to God?" before we say, "What is important to ME?" (especially when we naively want to stop asking questions after we answer our first question). We in the modern world are so selfish that we do not even vaguely understand the extent of our self-centeredness.

I'm sorry for the diversion from the topic. However, I suppose you cannot take the teaching or the pastoring out of a teacher/pastor.

Douglas Petrovich

Douglas Petrovich - 1/23/2010 10:53:09 AM

1/23/2010 11:32 AM #

Now I would like to address Dr. Tee's statement that follows:

"your discussion looks at a replacement pharoah but you do not record if Amenhotep II had his eldest son die. i read this carefully and you totally skip this vital point."

As for the notion of the "replacement pharaoh", I will save this discussion for a subsequent posting. But, I would like to deal with the record regarding the firstborn son of (the one and only!) Amenhotep II. You are correct in concluding that this is a vital point, which CANNOT be skipped.

Essentially, I have discussed this at length in my article, which can be downloaded in PDF format under the "Resources" tab on my website (listed below). This needs to be read and digested.

But to summarize, let me state here that the eldest son of Amenhotep II DID NOT rise to the throne. Moreover, Thutmose IV, the son who did succeed him, was NEVER called "the king's eldest son", a term used quite frequently in Egyptian records of the 18th Dynasty (and other times, too).

There was a son of Amenhotep II who was older than Thutmose IV, named Amenhotep (synonymous with the Prince B of the papyrus BM 10056). Yet he also was never referred to as "the king's eldest son".

The eminent Egyptologist Donald Redford, who remains VIOLENTLY opposed to the Bible, makes this point, "The fact that he (Prince B/Amenhotep) was named Amenhotep like his father might be taken to indicate that he was not the firstborn, that an older son named Thutmose had been born to Amenhotep II. It would be necessary to assume, however, that this Thutmose had passed away in childhood without leaving a trace."

Is this not amazing? And remember that Egypt DOES NOT document or boast of tragic losses! Yet in one of my footnotes, I discuss the possible attestation to this elusive Thutmose on a wall-painting in one of the Theban tombs. I think that the possibility of this connection is a strong one.

Either way, Redford hits the nail on the head. Therefore, if Amenhotep II was the exodus-pharaoh, perhaps his eldest son was this elusive Thutmose, who died in the plague without leaving much of a trace, thus satisfying both the Egyptological and Biblical records (Exod 12:29).

Douglas Petrovich

Douglas Petrovich - 1/23/2010 11:32:56 AM

1/23/2010 3:22 PM #

What I would like to comment on now is the question of the Red Sea vs. the Reed Sea.

Dr. Tee wrote the following: "i would like to know what proof do you have that there was an error or that God allowed an error in His word?".

To this, Henry Smith replied, "there is nothing 'wrong' with Red Sea, as it is clearly attested in the NT and clearly refers to the same event."

First of all, there both is and isn't something wrong with calling this body of water the Red Sea. This will take a bit to explain, but it is worth the effort.

The original Hebrew term meant Reed, which is best argued in chapter 9 of Hoffmeier's Israel in Egypt (1996). Of this, there is no doubt. He may have the dating of the Exodus wrong, but he's an excellent Egyptologist and archaeologist. And here, Hoffmeier has hit a home run.

So from where do we get the "Red" idea? Well, if you find a mistake of some sort in a modern translation, the first rule of thumb is to check the LXX, which introduced a slew of interesting--yet fully wrong--readings.

This is what we have here. The LXX translators, who were NOT translating under inspiration when they rendered the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, beginning in the 3rd century BC but not completing the project for scores of years, found a way to turn "Reed" into "Red", which looks understandable in English, but not so much in Hebrew. How this mistake came about is anyone's guess.

As for the rendering of the word "Red" into the OT passages of later languages/translations (English just being one of many), the LXX is the culprit. Jerome used it heavily when he made the Latin translation that eventually became the standardized text of the Roman (ergo Western) church.

And of course, this Vulgate was used throughout much of later western history as a basis for translating the Bible into the native languages of the Christians throughout the Romanized world and beyond. Thus the mistake was perpetuated virtually ad infinitum.

Henry Smith is correct that the NT writers twice used the word "Red" when penning their documents under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So, does this mean that the NT writers actually erred? Excellent question. Here's the answer.

To be sure, the words "Red" and "Reed" simply cannot be morphed into a single word, 2000 years later, with two divergent meanings. To suggest this would be "too cutesy" of an attempt to avoid the problem. So, this idea is to be nixed.

Does it mean that the Bible's inerrancy is now lost? Absolutely not. This is the other extreme to be avoided. So, what is the answer that provides a happy medium between these two unacceptable options? Glad you asked, because there IS a satisfactory answer.

Years ago, my Hebrew prof at seminary taught us about the difference between prescriptive and descriptive linguistics. If I say, "Me and my friend drove to the mall.", is this correct? Well, yes and no.

Descriptively, it correctly communicates the information that I want to tell my listener/reader. Prescriptively, it does not fit proper English grammatical rules. As the subject of the sentence, I should be writing "I" instead of "me", because "me" is to be used for the objective case, but not for the subjective case. The grammatically correct rendering is, "My friend and I . . .".

So, it is both correct and incorrect at the same time. In NT Greek, not infrequently it happens that the NT writer, most notoriously being John, uses the inflected ending "-an" with verbs that should be using the "-on" ending that is properly used with 1S and 3P verbs of that type.

Thus the inspired writer's use of -an with 3P verbs is "not good Greek". Grammatically, it may even be called incorrect, at least by Greek speakers who considered themselves to be grammatical purists. But probably John's writing reflected a phonetic change that had occurred in the spoken language, at least in his neck of the woods.

The other option is that he wanted to distinguish the 3P form from the 1S form, to avoid confusion. In this case, he borrowed the -av ending that otherwise was used with a different verb conjugation. As to which of these options is correct, only a guess can be offered. I will not do so.

So in another sense, a descriptive sense, John's "wrong" use of this -an ending is correctly describing the way Greek was spoken and/or written in his region. This same principle can be applied to the "Red" vs. "Reed" issue with NT writers.

The NT writer did not render the correct meaning of the Hebrew word for the name of this particular sea. Sorry, but this is just the reality of the situation. Does this signify an error in his text? Answer: not necessarily. Descriptively, it correctly duplicated the word in common use in the LXX of his day.

Therefore, this "mistake" does not say a whole lot about whether there was an actual error introduced into the inspired GNT or not. Instead, it says a lot about how highly the NT writers (at least 2 of them) viewed the Greek LXX.

For them, the LXX was on equal par with the Hebrew Scriptures. Perhaps this even reflects their greater knowledge of Greek, over Hebrew, but this would be difficult to prove conclusively.

I realize that an issue such as this is so thorny that emotions may come to the forefront and incite unenthusiatic responses, or outright opposition. Anyone who takes a position always must be prepared for this.

However, I have attempted to deal head-on with the issues involved. There is a legitimate problem here, and one must deal with it, however he/she chooses to do so. As far as I can fathom this issue, there is no better explanation that can "walk the fence"; if there is a better one out there, I am all ears.

Douglas Petrovich

Douglas Petrovich - 1/23/2010 3:22:28 PM

1/24/2010 3:50 PM #

I would like to add some thoughts to Henry Smith's reply to Mark, who stated the following:

"However the apostle Paul and Josephus both ignore the 480-year account in 1st Kings, and therefore come up with even longer periods of time, thereby pushing the Exodus back into the 16th century BC."

I am going to pass on dealing with Josephus, as he was merely a secular historian, who was hired by the Romans, and commented much later on the events that are germane to our discussion. I'll leave him to others.

However, Mark's reference to Paul is of great concern to me. Paul neither ignores the 480th-year reference in 1 Kings, nor do his writings suggest that the exodus should be pushed back to the 16th century BC. This inaccurate position is based on a faulty understanding of the phrase "about 450 years" in Acts 13:20.

One of the courses I taught in the seminary in Siberia was OT and NT textual criticism. Moreover, my second master's thesis was a resolution of the "en Efeso" variant in Ephesians 1:1, which--incidentally--was probably not original. Therefore, this discipline of biblical "TC" is one in which I have done extensive study.

Two of the variants that I discussed in detail with students in the TC course were those in 1 Kgs 6:1 and Acts 13:20. The Acts 13:20 passage offers two possibilities: 1) the number 450 refers strictly to the overall period of the judges in Israel, or 2) it refers to the period of time between the Israelites’ move into Egypt during the lifetime of Jacob, and the time when the Israelites had distributed the land of Canaan among themselves during the days of Joshua.

So either the text of Acts 13:19–20 should read, “And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment. After that He gave them judges for about 450 years, until Samuel the prophet.”, or it should be read, "When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance—all of which took about 450 years. After these things, He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet."

Both external and internal evidence argue in favor of the latter view. Paul's purpose was not to define the length of the judges, but to approximate the time between Jacob's entry into Egypt and the conclusion of Joshua's ministry in Israel (when the Israelites were "settled"!). Thus the period of the judges began AFTER this approximation of time offered by Paul.

The 450 years reckoned in Acts 13:20 includes the 430 years of Egyptian sojourning (Exod 12:40–41), plus 40 years in the wilderness (Acts 13:17), and about 7 years for the distribution of the land (Metzger, Textual Commentary, 358–359). This figure totals 477 years, which number clearly seems to be used by Paul as an approximation of time, a rounded number (which conclusion agrees with the choice of the wording in Greek).

A full discussion, including pro's and con's for each view, in both external and internal evidence, is available on my website, as cited above. Paul has no intention of challenging the 480th-year reference in 1 Kings 6:1, as his purpose was completely different than what many have concluded.

This view has always baffled me because it implies (whether anyone wants to fess-up to it or not) that I Kgs 6:1 is either a mistake, something not to be taken literally (the same error made by late-exodus proponents), or merely non-applicable. So, what, . . . a supposed reference by Paul 1000 years later is the peg on which we are going to hang our hats?!

Folks, something is wrong with this logic! Let the clear and specific reference in I Kgs 6:1 speak for itself, as written by the inspired Jewish author of the time when the events of the OT period were happening. And interpret it literally! We need not check our brains at the door, or warp our principles of hermeneutics when a potential contradiction arises.

If you read through my variant reading resolution, AND study the issue more carefully in the biblical text itself (in Greek/Hebrew, if humanly possible), I think you will come to the same conclusion. Of course, if your mind has been made up beforehand, without a willingness to change your view based on a more thorough study of the issues, you will be better off not wasting your time with what I have written to you here.

Mark then went on to say, ". . . Which coincidentally fits well both with the expulsion of the Hyksos and the Destruction of Jericho." Henry Smith replied by saying, "The expulsion of the Hyksos has nothing to do with the Exodus or Conquest."

For the most part, this reply is exactly right. The Hyksos are NOT connected to the exodus or the conquest. However, this is not the whole picture. Having studied Exodus carefully for an exegesis class I taught on that book, I found some fascinating historical connections, which--I hope--will someday make their way into print.

But as a teaser, I want to note a few things here that are related to our discussion. First, the pharaoh who arose in Egypt "who did not know Joseph" (Ex 1:8) almost undoubtedly was Ahmose, the first king of the 18th Dynasty, who completed the process of turning the Theban dynasty (17th) into one that ruled the Two Lands (Upper & Lower Egypt) again.

Under Ahmose, the Hyksos were expelled, and they resided in southern Canaan for several years until the Egyptians, afraid of a reversal of fortunes, finally eliminated the Hyksos altogether.

It was during this transitional time (i.e. while the Hyksos were in southern Palestine) that Pharaoh Ahmose probably uttered the statement, "Come, let us deal wisely with [the Israelites], or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land." (Ex 1:10).

Who are the enemies of the native Egyptians in this period who struck fear into them? And why would the Egyptians fear the Israelites leaving Egypt unless there was a precedent of that pattern, which was exemplified perfectly in the Hyksos? Probably the only legitimate possibility is that these enemies are the Hyksos, whose "civil war" with the native Egyptians from Thebes is proven conclusively by a plethora of archaeological evidence.

There are numerous other lines of proof for the supposition that this period is the outset of the 18th dynasty (and that the enemies are the Hyksos), which are found in the Hebrew wording and grammar, but this will have to wait until I finally get to publish my findings.

So, the Hyksos do seem to find their way into biblical history, though it is true that they are NOT the Egyptian rulers who turned into the taskmasters and exploiters of the ancient Israelites in the time leading up to the exodus.

Douglas Petrovich

Douglas Petrovich - 1/24/2010 3:50:17 PM

1/26/2010 8:50 AM #

There is one other comment about the Hyksos that I forgot to make. If anyone thinks that it was a Hyksos king who was the pharaoh who rose to power and "did not know Joseph", you have another problem.

It is probably well known to all who have even a minimal knowledge of ancient Egyptian history that both the Israelites (Goshen) and Hyksos dwelled in the Nile Delta region of Lower Egypt.

Thus, the ca. 105-year rule of the Hyksos, which occurred between Israel's entry into Egypt and the exodus under Moses, was one during which these 15th- and 16th-Dynasty foreign (Asiatic) kings intimately knew the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. They were at least neighbors, at most co-tenants.

Moreover, as for the kings of the 18th Dynasty, including Ahmose and Amenhotep II, they had Theban roots. In other words, their dynasty was spawned in far-away Upper Egypt, making it completely logical that they (especially Ahmose) would not have known of Joseph and the Israelites down in Lower Egypt.

Next, I want to reply to a couple more comments from Dr. T. He said, "it would be wiser to search for evidence to support the exodus than to secure a date."

If you sit down and think about this for a while, Dr. T., you will realize that this is logically impossible. History and chronology are absolutely inseparable. Without chronology, your history is various colors of paint splattered on a broad palette.

If you have no pinpointed time for the exodus, a critic may say to you, "Well, Dr. T., the evidence you found for the exodus really does not support your view, because the exodus could not have occurred at that time." What could you argue in reply? Or he could say, "It is no legitimate proof, because you do not even know if this evidence supports your view, as you are not even sure WHEN the exodus took place in the first place."

And do you know what? He would have you in a barrel. Only when you have a clear and undeniable synchronism between two divergent historical traditions can you even hope to have "proof" of an event such as the exodus. No chronological peg, no hope of proving anything to anyone.

Next, Dr. T. stated, "providing a date will not help people believe, for they are looking for evidence, not a number." [commas added]

Dr. T., they are looking for irrefutable evidence, not just the hope of marginally possible evidence. Your approach, at best, provides only the latter. If you read my article on the exodus-pharaoh and Amenhotep II, I think you will see how powerful the evidence can be, if-and-only-if we have undeniable chronological synchronisms between Egyptian and Israelite history, which are based on specific dates that are fully certain.

Doug Petrovich

Douglas Petrovich - 1/26/2010 8:50:36 AM

1/26/2010 11:50 PM #

This will be the most difficult contribution to the discussion that I have attempted to make. Why? Well, because there is one part of Dr. Wood’s article that I believe to be absolutely wrong. Yet I have the utmost respect for him and his work, and I even hate the idea of having a view that opposes his.
Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I write this posting. He is a dear man to me, will continue to be so, and I will continue to hold him in the utmost respect. However, since love and truth indeed can go hand in hand, I do feel the need to address this issue head-on. Thankfully, it is not an issue of doctrinal or monumental proportion.
Dr. Wood, to my great disappointment, has bought-into the proposal of William Shea that there was not one Amenhotep II, but two of them (A & B). When I first read Shea's article, I think it would be fair to say that my jaw hit the floor. You see, I have done an enormous amount of research in the field of Egyptology. In fact, it is the first minor in my PhD program at the University of Toronto, where Dr. Wood completed his PhD some moons previously.
I have a keen sense of how well the Egyptians kept records, especially in the New Kingdom, when the events of the exodus took place. More books and articles have been written about this (NK) era than any other, by far. Part of this is because the ancient sources for this period are so numerous.
So the notion that a second pharaoh of the same name, an actual imposter who used the very same birth-name and throne-name, truly rose to the throne in the name of the pharaoh that he had just usurped—even if the ruling regime placed him there “secretively”—is off the charts in the realm of fantastical theories.
I cannot even calculate mathematically how unlikely it would be for this imposter to pull-off something so astonishing, let alone get away with it without this upheaval’s appearing in any contemporary (or subsequent!) Egyptian records, especially given that we are talking about the New Kingdom. Even O. J. could not get away with this one.
I suppose this would be great fodder for Hollywood. In fact, this very thing WAS pulled-off by the bad guys in the recent G. I. Joe movie. They substituted an imposter for the U.S. president, and they pulled it off without even a hint of it by the cabinet or the Presidential staff.
But come on, folks, this is Hollywood. Do you think someone could pull this off in real life, with--for example--President Obama, even if the usurper(s) did have the same nanomyte technology as they had in the G. I. Joe movie? Or, even more, what chance would there be to pull-off such a scheme with a United States president, without such technology?
Then, if this isn’t far enough off the charts, think about what chance there might be to pull this off in ancient(!) New-Kingdom Egypt, where the royal house was chock full of courtiers, officials, SCRIBES, family members, servants, etc., all of whom had known Amenhotep II since childhood.
They knew his height, weight, habits, scars, personality, strengths, weaknesses, etc. . . . "to a T". This is not even to mention all of the foreign ambassadors who must have known him, as well. This very time was the era of Egypt’s most profound international interaction, in ALL of its history. Are we honestly supposed to believe that a coup, even if it had been of Al-Qaeda-operative proportions could get away with something like this? And do you think Amenhotep’s step-brothers and rivals to the throne freely agreed to all of this?
For this not to lead to a civil war, and for it not to be recorded in current or later Egyptian (or even foreign!) records, these Einstein-level usurpers not only would have to cover-up the death of the pharaoh, but they would have to permanently quiet the mouths of every single courtier, royal family member, SCRIBE, official, servant, foreign ambassador, etc., etc., etc., NONE of whom died in the Re(e)d Sea!
Is this even realistic to propose? Is there even a mathematical possibility of its happening without any record anywhere, and without ANY repercussions? The ancient Egyptian story of Sinuhe is based on an Egyptian official’s flight from 12th-Dynasty Egypt (Middle Kingdom) to Canaan, where he attempts to hide away so that he is not accused of being involved in the conspiracy that actually did take place against Amenemhet I. The news became public “in no time”, and the story of Sinuhe reflects the wide-ranging effect of such an intrigue within the royal court.
And take note that this is a mere story, in popular literature, NOT an official document. Official documents of the coup and the conspiracy do exist. And this royal intrigue even transpired long before the New Kingdom, before Joseph was alive. But there are no official documents of a coup under Amenhotep II, no popular stories, no known flights, no civil wars, and no royal intrigues about a “new” (and improved?) Amenhotep II coming to power.
There is much more argumentation that could be forwarded against this theory, but essentially I would be repeating what is argued in my TMSJ (2006) article, cited above. I strongly opposed Shea’s view in my article, and I would have expected that it would shut the door forever on Shea’s wild and exotic theory. However, this apparently did not happen. What’s worse, it probably NEVER will happen.

This brings me to the final point I want to make on this topic. The question that is begged is why Dr. Wood and William Shea, such wonderful and insightful ANE-history buffs, would resort to such an impossible theory in the first place. What possibly could drive them to it?

The answer is fairly simple, though I cannot say that I confirmed it with them. However, for most people who would devise or subscribe to such a theory, there is a simple reason as to why they would do so.

From our days as children in SS (Sunday School), mine included, we were taught by our teachers that the exodus-pharaoh died in the Re(e)d Sea. Eventually we even came across the biblical passages that led to this presupposition. And, it seemed to be an undeniable truth.

When my studies in Egyptian and biblical history led me to the conclusion that Amenhotep II is--without the slightest hint of a shadow of a doubt--the exodus-pharaoh, I was aghast to discover that the body/mummy of Amenhotep II was preserved along with his sarcophagus that clearly identifies him as this important pharaoh.

I cringed within, thinking to myself that the exodus-pharaoh actually DID NOT die in the Re(e)d Sea, but was buried in Egypt in his own tomb, as was the case with virtually every other Egyptian pharaoh. Moreover, I was brokenhearted to discover that he reigned DECADES BEYOND the actual year of the exodus.

My question was this: do these historical realities not completely contradict what is known and verified in the biblical account? Obviously I was not about to shed my view of inerrancy, but I knew this presented a HUGE problem that needed to be resolved, only WITHIN the bounds of inerrancy.

Yet, the historical record from Egypt was clear and unequivocal. Next I had to ask myself an honest and important question: does the Bible REALLY declare that the exodus-pharaoh died in the sea along with his army?

I was forced to go back to all of those passages that supposedly stated—cut and dry—that he drowned with his soldiers. I studied them objectively, saying to God, “OK, Lord, if we have misunderstood your word all of these years, help me to see that it does not say what I was taught (wrongly, though with good intentions) in SS.”

Thankfully, I had both studied and taught Hebrew. This made the task easier, providing great certainty. After I examined every one of those passages, individually, I understood that NOT ONE of them unequivocally states that pharaoh died with his army.

It CAN be assumed, but it CANNOT be concluded with even the remotest certainty. In fact, there are even strong arguments from those texts that show that the exodus-pharaoh most likely DID NOT die with his soldiers. This detailed study of God’s word—which falls under the category of exegesis, the area of my greatest expertise—liberated my soul by informing my understanding of what those passages truly say.

All of my findings were explained and detailed in my TMSJ article. They should be read by anyone seriously interested in the issue of the exodus and its historicity. The most thrilling part of this entire adventure for me was that, for the first time (for me, anyway), Ancient Near Eastern history played the key role in correcting a wrong presupposition I had about something that the Bible teaches. This showed me the extreme value of the study of ANE history!

The question that faces many of you, however, is this: are you willing to shed one of your childhood presuppositions that has been with you since your days in SS, that is, IF there is clear and legitimate exegetical evidence to the contrary?
If not, do not waste your time reading anything I have to say. But if you ARE willing, and you are similar to the Bereans (who were more noble than the Thessalonians, because they compared everything that Paul said with the Scripture—and not merely casually dismissing his teachings as outrageous, either), then read my arguments. Then, study the Hebrew text yourself. Shed your own blood, sweat, and tears.
If you arrive at a different conclusion, more power to you. But please, do not embrace such an impossible theory such as Shea’s, just to avoid a “problem” between the Bible and ancient history that is really not a problem in the first place. Develop your own theory, if you feel so compelled, but make it a sound one.
There are few times when we go further astray from the truth than when we “solve problems” that were never there in the first place. More often than not, the real problem is with us, and our stubborn presuppositions.

Hoping this will help many truth-seekers,

Douglas Petrovich

Douglas Petrovich - 1/26/2010 11:50:39 PM

2/22/2010 10:28 PM #

The main thesis of this article by Dr. Wood is utterly refuted by one key verse in the OT, Deut. 11:4.

Dr. Judah Landa - 2/22/2010 10:28:02 PM

2/24/2010 4:32 PM #


If you would have consulted the people who wrote the OT and cherished its tradition for centuries before the rest of the world caught on, you could have saved yourself a lot of time and effort.  Jewish tradition has always asserted that the Pharoah of the Exodus did NOT die or drown at the parting of the sea, in order that he may live to spread the word about the greatness of the one God Creator based on events he himself had witnessed.

This also is what the text means when it uses the unusual phrase "ad ehad" instead of "af ehad" (not "not even one remained" but "not up to one remained"). As always reading the very nuanced Hebrew text carefully solves all problems.

Dr. Judah Landa - 2/24/2010 4:32:56 PM

4/15/2010 5:29 PM #

Interestingly, I always understood the Exodus account as implying the Pharaoh had NOT died.  The straightforward interpretation of Ex 14:28 as rendered in the NAB:

"As the water flowed back, it covered the chariots and the charioteers of Pharaoh's whole army which had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not a single one of them escaped."

is that "not a single one" of "Pharaoh's whole army" escaped.  Pharaoh himself is not part of his army.  And as nothing is said of Pharaoh, it is logical to assume that he had not entered the sea, but was safely watching from a higher location, like the typical general watching the battle from a distance.

Humble Catholic - 4/15/2010 5:29:27 PM

4/15/2010 11:22 PM #


You present an interesting twist to our understanding of that verse. I would quibble, however, with the NAB rendering, it doesn't quite capture the gist of the original Hebrew. But your depiction of what likely happened there, with Pharaoh watching from the sidelines, provides a sound basis for understanding why the Hebrew says "ad ehad" instead of the more correct "af ehad" if indeed everyone, including pharaoh, died.

Dr. Judah Landa - 4/15/2010 11:22:13 PM

7/17/2010 3:47 AM #

Fascinating discussion, however I am at a loss as to the validity of Solomon's fourth year being 967 years. How has this figure been calculated?

Ray - 7/17/2010 3:47:14 AM

7/23/2010 10:01 PM #

Solomon's 4th year is 480 years after the Exodus. (1 Kings 6:1) Solomon's 4th year is 1015 B.C. The Exodus is in 1495 B.C. Solomon 1019-979 B.C. Rehoboam 979-962 B.C. Abijam 962-959 B.C. Asa 959-918 B.C. Jehoshaphat 918-893 B.C. Jehoram 893-885 B.C. Ahaziah 885-884 B.C. Athaliah 884-878 B.C. Jehoash 878-838 B.C. Amaziah 838-809 B.C. Uzziah 809-757 B.C. Jotham 757-741 B.C. Ahaz 741-725 B.C.Hezekiah 725-696 B.C. Manasseh 696-641 B.C. Amon 641-639 B.C. Josiah 639-608 B.C. Jehoahaz 608 B.C. Jehoikim 608-597 B.C. Jehoiachin 597 B.C. Zedekiah 597-586 B.C. (1 Kings 14:21-2 Kings 24:18) Temple is destroyed 586 B.C.

Lujack Skylark - 7/23/2010 10:01:33 PM

8/6/2010 7:41 PM #

the Palace of Hazor (Tel Hazor) was excavated by Dr. Doron Ben-Ami.  He has admitted that Carbon-14 dating from the wood in the palace indicates a destruction date of late 15th Century B.C.  However because he rejects the Exodus and Biblical dating, he claims that the wood must have been imported from somewhere else and only installed in the palace in the 13th century.  (i.e. the wood was reused from an earlier, different settlement).   He has no evidence for this wild theory, and refuses to accept that the Israelites under Joshua did indeed destroy the city by fire.  
The explanation that the fire is a result of the war of Deborah and Barak in Judges, is unneeded and unwarranted.  

Mark - 8/6/2010 7:41:54 PM

8/17/2010 8:13 PM #


Do you have a source citation for the interesting C-14 info you presented above? I would appreciate the opportunity to examine that futher.

Thanks in advance.

Dr. Judah Landa - 8/17/2010 8:13:26 PM

8/18/2010 4:40 PM #

"The main thesis of this article by Dr. Wood is utterly refuted by one key verse in the OT, Deut. 11:4."

no it isn't, pharaoh is included in 'the army'. the Bible doesn't have to specifically mentin each person to include them. if the opposite were true, then we would have long lists of names for every event and that would make the Bible too long and very uninteresting

archaeologist - 8/18/2010 4:40:25 PM

8/18/2010 10:39 PM #

For the C-14 dating info, you will need to contact Dr. Doron Ben-Ami at the Hebrew University - Jerusalem.  He teaches there and also oversees the current City of David Excavations.  (His conclusions about the City of David excavations are also questionable - He reached bedrock, but claims that he hasn't reached a layer dating to King David, yet at the same time we know from several sources that the area was inhabited long before king David.)

Mark - 8/18/2010 10:39:12 PM

8/19/2010 5:28 AM #

Dear Archeologist,

You miss my point. Perhaps I was a bit too cryptic. Deut. 11:4 states that the Egyptian army was destroyed TO THIS DAY, that is the day Moses was speaking 40 years after the Exodus. He couldn't be referring to the dead Egyptian soldiers since it makes no sense to say they are "dead to this day." So he was referring to the Egyptian army which was not rebuilt for at least 40 years.

But Dr. Wood's article envisions all manner of activity by the Egyptian army soon after the Exodus based on his dating of 1447. That is a HUGE problem.

Dr. Judah Landa - 8/19/2010 5:28:59 AM

8/19/2010 11:38 AM #

Re: Deuteronomy 11:4

You must keep in mind that the military contingent that Pharaoh mobilized to pursue the Israelites was only a portion of the entire Egyptian army, probably Pharaoh’s personal force stationed at Ramesses.  Throughout Exodus 14 it is referred to as “his army,” or “army of Pharaoh.”  The biblical account specifically points out the exception of the chariots corps.  An elite corps of 600 was mobilized, as well as “all the other chariots of Egypt” (Exodus 14:6).  The 1762 chariots captured in the two campaigns of Amenhotep IIB in 1444 and 1442 BC would go a long way toward replacing the lost Egyptian chariots. [ See: and ]

I see no problem with understanding Deuteronomy 11:4 as referring to the particular military units that were involved in the Yam Suph event.  They were lost and not replaced.  After the Exodus the Egyptian army was reconstituted with entirely new units and a new organization.

Dr. Bryant Wood

ABR - 8/19/2010 11:38:33 AM

8/19/2010 6:01 PM #

Dear Dr. Wood,

Any destroyed military units that are subsequently reconstituted cannot be described as having been destroyed "to this day." Nor can the dead soldiers of the destroyed units be said to be "dead to this day."

All Egyptian forces are "Pharaoh's army" since there were not (as far as we know) any forces not under his control. There is no reference to "personal forces" of Pharaoh in the Bible.

Dr. Judah Landa - 8/19/2010 6:01:05 PM

8/19/2010 10:09 PM #

Dr. JL-- my question is, where do you get this 40 year time limit?  we do not know exactly when Moses wrote the book.  but you make an interesting observation because i think the hyksos, were the people the Israelites fought during their wanderings, the Ammonites i believe but not sure, which means if the Egyptian army was 'destroyed to this day' that would leave ample opportunity for that nation to enter egypt and take over.

archaeologist - 8/19/2010 10:09:42 PM

8/25/2012 7:58 PM #

I am interested in anything in the period, Exodus (including both chronology and routing) until the death of Moses about 40 years later.

Bob Stevens - 8/25/2012 7:58:20 PM

12/3/2012 12:22 PM #

       We are told it would have been very difficult for such a multitude wandering around out on the desert to have lived for more than a few weeks. Yes, and the same could be said about one person out on the desert. They are forgetting God, Who supplied water, meat (quail) and daily bread (Nehemiah 9:20, 11:31). They believe that encampments of such a multitude would have left some sort of “trash” for them to follow, but they are still trying to figure out which route the children of Israel were on. “Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, so that they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not.” (Nehemiah 9:21) There was no thrown away, worn-out clothing, no piles of leftover manna as it melted (Exodus 16:21), and they left no “soda bottles or gum wrappers” for them to follow. As others have brought out, the Israelites the critics are looking for never existed, because they do not believe God provided for them, but the truth is Israel “lacked nothing”! Their inability to find something (“absence of evidence”) is what they offer as proof! They only recently found (2002) the “workers’ village” for the pyramids of the Giza Plateau. It is estimated this town housed 20,000 people and was built out of bricks, whereas the children of Israel lived in tents. And this discovery only came after they had searched every inch of the Giza Plateau for the last two hundred years of archaeology.
      Thirty (30) short catacombs (25-80 feet long) have been found on the Exodus route filled with creamated remains. The encampment of Kibroth-hattaavah “graves of lust,” and Taberah are one and the same place, but not at the same time, and it can be shown that at both times the “fire” of God burned to death (cremated) multitudes who were there (Numbers 11:1, Psalm 78:20-21). This is the only time during Israel's 40 years of wandering that the Bible tells us of a mass burial. The Egyptians, Arabs and Jews did not cremate; the Romans and Greeks who at one time ruled Egypt and sometimes cremated, had no known towns within 60 miles of these catacombs.  See   has two videos of this route including pictures of these 30 catacombs.
              The remains from cremation are considerably smaller than the bodies they come from. Sir Wilkinson said the opening of the vases was “about three inches”, allowing for a number of cremated remains to have been deposited in each vase. Multiply this by the tens of thousands of vases (from the 30 catacombs found to date) and it would have required a city of foreigners (Greeks or Romans) larger than ever existed at any place in the Eastern Desert! Greeks and Romans did not always cremate, and at no other location in the Eastern Desert have cremated remains been found, even at sites known to have been home to Greeks and Romans!  
       In Alexandria, Egypt, other catacombs were found for both Greeks and Romans, also with cremated remains. However, their ashes were placed in a different shape of vase than the ones found at this site. They were also painted and many inscribed, not only with the name of the person, but also the date he died. These things: the lack of inscriptions and the plain unpainted vases, point to a mass funeral, as the Graves of Lust witnessed. For had this burial site been used for years, then certainly these vases would have been decorated as were those found at other sites! Israel had the time to make these catacombs as they were at Kibroth-hattaavah for at least 30 days (Numbers 11:20).  

Garry Matheny - 12/3/2012 12:22:29 PM

2/22/2013 1:49 PM #

How could a country that had lost its entire harvest, its drinkable water, its army and its sons rebuild WITHIN TWO YEARS? How could 600 chariots challenge a population of some 1.5 million Jews? If even if it was just a contingent of the Pharaoh's army there was no way recover from loosing all his food and water and man-power within 2 years! if that had happened to any country it would have taken at least decades to rebuild from that

Also was the "first" Amenhotep a first born child shouldnt he also have died in the exodus?

Tony - 2/22/2013 1:49:48 PM

Add comment


Research RSS Feed

AddThis Feed Button

Recent Articles

“And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty, and your faith is also empty” (1 Cor 15:14)....
INTRODUCTION: Something happened over 1,970 years ago that changed the course of world history. This...
On February 8, 2014, a symposium was held at Houston Baptist University in conjunction with the new archaeological...
We presently live in a culture of great skepticism and confusion. Many scholars, scientists, historians...
Associates for Biblical Research
  • PO Box 144, Akron, PA 17501
  • Phone: +1 717-859-3443 | Fax: +1 717-859-3393
  • Toll Free: 1-800-430-0008
Friend ABR on Join us on Twitter Join us on Twitter