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Easter Apologetics - Israel in Egypt

Updated on March 14, 2011


Part I

Israel in Egypt

Easter, a holiday for most of us, a time of remembrance for some of us. We remember the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some remember the Exodus out of Egypt. Some will question, was there a real Jesus, did he really die, was he raised from the dead? Others question was Israel ever in Egypt, was there an Exodus?

What the Bible tells us is that Israel began it’s sojourn in Egypt when Jacob moved from Canaan to Egypt to be with his son Joseph, who was vizier to the Pharaoh. This would have been during the 12th Dynasty and probably under Pharaoh Sesostris III about 1878 B.C. There was a centralization of power in Egypt at this time and this is concordant with the description of Joseph’s rule.

Around 1640 B.C. a people known to history as the Hyksos or Shepherd Kings, and to the Egyptians as the Amu entered Egypt and seized power without needing to do battle. They destroyed Egyptian monuments and documents. Their centre of power was the city of Avaris, later it was renamed Ramses. It is believed that it was around this city that the tribe of Jacob lived. Today it is believed that this site is found at Tell el Dab’a.

The 17th Dynasty from about 1545 B.C. engages in open warfare with the Hyksos. This was under the Pharaoh Kamose. It was the Pharaoh Ahmose in 1535 B.C. who is credited with finally expelling the Hyksos from Egypt. The desecration of Hyksos monuments leaves us with little to examine this period. While the names of the Hyksos Pharaohs are known their order is doubtful.

Among the problems we have with the Exodus is that the Bible does not tell us who the Pharaoh of the Exodus was. Depending on which scholar you listen to that Pharaoh will be anyone from Thutmose II to Ramses II. It has been suggested that the reason for the omission of the Pharaoh’s name is because the Egyptian practice at the time of Moses (c. 1500 B.C.) was simply to refer to Pharaoh and not to mention his name. It was also the Egyptian practice not to name enemy kings in their documents or on their monuments.

Moses would then have been born about 1527 B.C. during the reign of Thutmose I. The daughter of Pharaoh who rescued him from the river is generally thought to be Hatshepsut. Thutmose III then becomes the Pharaoh of the Oppression. As he reigned for 54 years this allows time for Moses 40 years of exile.

Following the chronology in the Bible the Exodus took place around 1446 B.C., when Amenhotep II was Pharaoh, As the last of the ten plagues to afflict Egypt was the death of the first born it follows that the Pharaohs of this period must not be the first born. A prince known as Amenemhet is referred to as the “eldest son” of Thutmose III. The term “eldest son” is an official title in Egypt at the time. But Amenemhet did not succeed Thutmose III as king, rather it was Amenhotep II. From the text of Exodus we know that the Pharaoh of the time did not die as the first born.

It also follows that the successor to Amenhotep II must not be his first born son. Amenhotep’s successor was Thutmose IV, and from the Dream Stele located at the Sphinx we learn that Thutmose IV had an older brother. From Egyptian records it is also suggested that he may have had two older brothers. The first born brother appears to be unnamed in the monuments and to have died in childhood.

There is evidence of a Palestinian/Canaanite presence in Egypt in the pre-Hyksos period (c. 1620 - 1530 B.C.). They appear to have had permanent structures near to an Egyptian fortress (Tell el-Dab’a).

Yet for all the doubts expressed about the Exodus there are continuing efforts to explain the Ten Plagues of Egypt by natural means. All of these explanations are imaginative, some are even plausible, but for the most part they ignore the Biblical idea that all of the plagues were manifestations of God’s power, that is, they were supernatural in origin, timing, and operation.

Which leads us to the Exodus. How is it that an army of between 2.5 and 6 million people left no trace in the wilderness? Well according to some, if you look at satellite photos of the Sinai there just may be traces. We have to keep in mind that these were a people who were supernaturally fed with a food that melted with the sun. During their forty years in the wilderness their shoes and clothing did not wear out, which means there was little in the way of garbage to be left for archaeologists. And while natural explanations have been found for manna and water and quails (the water and quails I can understand), those explanations only work for small groups of people. It should also be noted that the Amorites, a people well attested to by textual evidence, have also left no archaeological remains while existing through several centuries throughout the fertile crescent.

When arguments against the Biblical account of Israel in Egypt are made they are made from an absence of evidence, and absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Typically the dates (1300 B.C. - 1200 B.C.) are different from what would be expected from a literal interpretation of the Bible (1450 B.C. - 1400 B.C.) and when the dates from the Bible are considered as true the archaeological evidence begins to appear. There are some things that definitely cannot be explained in natural terms, the ten plagues being the foremost. All things considered, however, there is no reason to doubt the scriptures and mounting evidence to accept them as history.


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