THE PHARAOH OF THE EXODUS

Courtesy Archaeological Diggings April/May 2006

THERE has been much debate among scholars about who was the Pharaoh Moses confronted when he demanded "Let my people go." Because most of the suggested names did not seem to fit the scenario many recent archaeologists have claimed there was no exodus, or if there was, it was a minor affair with a few
Israelites managing to slip out of Egypt while the authorities were not looking, and infiltrate into Palestine to form the nucleus of what would later be the nation of Israel.

The Bible record is unambiguous. Ten devastating plagues fell on the land of Egypt culminating in the death of all the firstborn (Exodus 12:29).Those who left Egypt included "six hundred thousand men on foot" (Exodus 12:37), so including woman and children there must have been about two million people involved.When the Egyptians attempted to follow the departing Israelites through the Red Sea "the waters returned and covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all the army of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them" (Exodus 14:23).

Early scholars tried to identify Rameses II as this Pharaoh because the enslaved Israelites "built for Pharaoh Supply cities Pithom and Rameses," (Exodus
1:11) but Rameses was a common name for Pharaohs and this could apply to others besides Rameses II. Anyway the mummy of Rameses II is in the Cairo Museum. He did not perish in the Red Sea.

Other scholars who matched the traditional Egyptian chronology with the biblical date for the Exodus in 1445 BC claimed that Thutmosis III or Amenhotep II could have been the pharaoh in question, but these kings reigned in the 18'th dynasty, the most powerful dynasty that ever ruled the land of Egypt. In this dynasty there is no trace of a large population of Semitic slaves, no evidence of disastrous plagues, no record of the loss of the army in the Red Sea, and the mummies of these Pharaohs are also in the Cairo Museum.

It appears that there is only one problem - a revision of Egyptian chronology that would bring the 13th dynasty down to the time of the exodus and there are a growing number of scholars who support such a reduction of dates. When such a revision is adopted the evidence for the exodus is plentiful. UNDER Sesostris III and Amenenhet III, the last great kings of the 12th dynasty, papyrus documents reveal the presence of many Semitic slaves who suddenly disappeared from the scene.

The last monarch of the 12th dynasty was Queen Sobeknefure who could be identified as the Egyptian princess who rescued Moses from the waters of the Nile. When Moses was 40 years of age he fled to the land of Midian and since Sobeknefure had no children to succeed her, the dynasty came to an end. Forty years later Moses returned and confronted the Pharaoh. This was probably Neferhotep I whose statue was found in the temple of Karnak in October last year.

Neferhotep's mummy has never been found so he could well have been the Pharaoh who drowned in the Red Sea. We do not know anything about his family, but we do know he was succeeded, not by his son but by his brother. If he only had one son that would explain why he was so distraught at the death of his firstborn. He would have had no other son to take his throne, leaving his brother to take the position.

Scholars who adhere to the traditional chronology will not be likely to accept this view, but at least it is gaining credence as a viable alternative. Under the heading "Ancient Pharaoh's Statue found" a Discovery Channel news article reports on the recent excavation of the statue of Neferhotep 1 beneath the temple of Karnak at Luxor. The article concludes by saying. "Some biblical historians believe he. may have been the Pharaoh of the Exodus, under whose reign the Jewish Exodus occurred." Neferhotep's body and tomb have never been found. A similar statue of Neferhotep was unearthed in 1904 in Luxor. It is now on display in the Egyptian Museum.

 

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