John Holmes, Academic Dean at Grace University gives us these great pieces of scholarly insight as we approach the study of Exodus. Thanks, John!
What is the Date of the Exodus:
*Early Date: 1446
*Late Date: 1275 or 1290
A. The early date emphasizes the literal interpretation of the biblical numbers in Exodus 12:40, Judges 11:26, and 1 Kings 6:1. Hill and Walton offer the following arguments for an early date. (A Survey of the Old Testament, 108).
1. First Kings 6:1 indicates the Exodus occurred 480 years prior to the 4th year of Solomon’s reign. His 4th year is dated at 966 B.C., placing the Exodus at __________ 1446.2. According to Judg. 11:26, Israel had occupied Canaan for 300 years before the judgeship of Jephthah, which is dated around 1100. Adding Jephthah’s 300 years, plus Israel’s 40 years in the desert puts the Exodus around _________ 1440.
3. Moses lived in exile in Midian 40 years (Acts 7:3; cf. Exod. 2:23) while the pharaoh of the oppression was still alive. Upon the pharaoh’s death, the Lord told Moses it was safe to return to Egypt (Ex. 2:25; 4:19) The only pharaohs who ruled 40 years or more were Thutmose III (1504‑ 1450) and Rameses II (1290‑1224). But it is impossible for Rameses II to be the Pharaoh of the exodus, since he did not follow a Pharaoh who ruled for 40 years. Rameses II’s predecessor was Seti I (r. 1318-1304), before Seti I was Rameses I (r. 1320-1318).
4. The early date allows for the length of time assigned to the period of the judges (at least 350 years). The late date allows only 180 years.
5. The Dream Stela of Thutmose IV indicates he was not the legal heir to the throne (i.e., the legal heir would have died in the tenth plague).
One of those days it happened that the King’s Son Thut‑mose came on an excursion at noon time. Then he rested in the shadow of this great god. Sleep took hold of him, slumbering at the time when the sun was at its peak. He found the majesty of this August god speaking with his own mouth, as a father speaks to his son, saying,
“See me, look at me, my son, Thut‑mose! I am thy father, Harmakhis‑Khepri‑Re‑Atum. I shall give thee my kingdom upon earth at the head of the living. Thou shalt wear the southern crown and the northern crown on the throne of Geb, the crown prince (of the gods).Thine is the land in its length and its breadth, that which the Eye of the All‑Lord illumines.” ( Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 449. )
6. The “430 years” of Exod. 12:40 dates the entrance of Jacob into Egypt during the reign of Sesostris/Senusert III (1878‑ 43) rather than during the Hyksos period (1674‑1567).
B. The Late Date – emphasizes Israel’s role in the building of Pithom and Rameses (Ex. 1:11). They typically approach the text with a figurative hermeneutic, which means things don’t mean what they say.
What about the Habiru (apiru)?
All Hebrews are Habiru but not all Habiru are Hebrews
Sixteen of the 400 Amarna Tablets, discovered in 1887 at Tell el Amarna (180 miles South of Cairo) mention a group of people referred to as Habiru. The tablets tell of chaotic conditions and trouble resulting from these people around 1400 B.C. – and so it has often been postulated that this could be a reference to Joshua’s invading forces. However, it has been discovered that the habiru designation has been found far from Canaan, reducing the chance that it means “Hebrew.” The term appears to be a socially derogatory term: a name for someone w/o citizenship, a migrant, or even a bandit or raider. Perhaps Joshua’s fighting forces were called Habiru because they were unwelcomed invaders who lacked local citizenship. Thus, the term Habiru does refer to the Hebrews – but it also refers to many other peoples. It is not an ethnic term, but a descriptive one.
Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus?
A. LATE Date = 1275__ Rameses II
1. Scholars who hold to a late date of the Exodus (c. 1290‑1225 BC) identify Rameses II (c. 1304‑1237) as the Pharaoh of the Exodus.
2. They argue that the city of Rameses (Ex. 1:11) which it was built by the enslaved Israelites, was named after the Pharaoh Rameses. (It is also possible that Pharaoh Rameses was named after the area of Rameses)
Genesis 47:11 states that Jacob and his family settled in the land of Rameses when they entered Egypt in the nineteenth century; unless we postulate an anachronism, for which there is not the slightest proof, we must conclude that there was an area by that name before there was ever a Pharaoh Rameses” (Eugene H. Merrill, An Historical Survey of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1966). p. 107.)
B. EARLY Date = 1446__ Amenhotep II (r. 1450‑1424)
1. Hatshepsut (r. 1504‑1482 d.) may have been the princess who reared Moses. If this is so, she most likely reared him to be the next Pharaoh, since her only child (Nefrure) had died in childhood.
2. Thutmose III (c. 1514‑1450 d.) ruled as co‑regent with his stepmother Hatshepsut for 22 years until her death in 1482, then he ruled independently until 1450. This allows for the time when Moses was in exile in Midian (cf. Acts 7:3; Exodus 2:23). Upon his death in 1450, Moses returned to Egypt.
3. Amenhotep II (r. 1450-1424 d.) may have been the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Note that the Bible does not say that he drowned but that he led a battle to the water’s edge.
4. The dream inscription of Tutmose IV (c. 1410‑1402?) may indicate that he was not originally intended to be Pharaoh. His older brother (Pharaoh’s first born) would have died in the tenth plague.
The capital of 18th dynasty Egypt was in Thebes – sometimes a criticism because it is argued that Moses would not have contact with Pharaoh if he was so far south. However Pharaoh’s had several homes/palaces and moved around.