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So when was the Israelite exodus from Egypt?

Reader comment on item: American Intifada
in response to reader comment: Tel Kabri and Israel history-What the world should know

Submitted by Pismire M. Biber (United States), Apr 18, 2012 at 15:54

Biblical chronology can be a subjective thing. Nevertheless, if one can approach the Bible with a modicum of honesty, curiousity, and rigor it is possible to gain an objective understanding of Biblical chronology regardless of what traditional religious dogma may advocate.

One can start with the statements in Exodus 12:40-41 that the Israelites sojourned in Egypt for 430 years to the day from the time Jacob entered Egypt with his family to escape famine in Canaan. The notion that the Israelite sojourn in Egypt lasted only 210 years is a late Pharisaic invention intended to distance the ancient Israelites from the Hyksos who ruled Lower Egypt until the mid-sixteenth century B.C.E. The alteration of the Exodus 12:40 record is documented in the Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 9a-9b, which states that the words "and in Canaan" were added to the Greek text of the original Septuagint when it was translated from the Hebrew in Alexandria, Egypt in the mid-third century B.C.E. The addition of these three words to Exodus 12:40 essentially reduce the duration of the Israelite sojourn in Egypt by half.

Then one may examine the statement in 1 Kings 6:1 that the interval between the Israelite exodus from Egypt until the time Solomon began construction of the First Temple in Jerusalem was some 480 years. Adding to the 40 years (during which the Israelites wandered in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt) the ensuing years during which individual judges ruled from the time of Joshua to the time of Samuel (as recorded in the Biblical Book of Judges), plus the intervening years of oppression by various foreign powers, plus the collective years of rule by Samuel, Saul, David, and the initial three years of Solomon's rule (as recorded in the Biblical Books of 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings) gives an overall sum of 549 years from the exodus to the foundation of Solomon's Temple. This sum is obviously significantly greater than 480 years, which indicates that the figure of 480 years (actually the text reads "in the 480th year") is erroneous. Therefore attempts by religious expositors to cram the chronology of the Biblical Judges text into the space of only 480 years is also erroneous.

So how does one arrive at the figure of 549 years for the interval between the Israelite exodus and the founding of Solomon's Temple? Firstly, one must understand that the periods of rule by the various judges, interspersed by the various periods of oppression, were sequential, not overlapping. We know these various eras are sequential because the Biblical record refers to the "children of Israel" as a unit and not to individual tribes as one would expect if the historical events recorded in the Judges text had somehow overlapped in time. (I leave this arithmetic to the reader, but with the proviso that Josephus records that Joshua ruled the Israelites for 25 years after their entry into Canaan.)

Secondly, one must understand that the extant Biblical terxts give erroneous durations for the reigns of Kings Saul and Solomon. We know this is so because the Biblical texts also record that Solomon's son, King Rehoboam, the son of Na'amah an Ammonitess, was 41 years old when he became king after the death of Solomon. So if Solomon had reigned only 40 years then Solomon must have been married to Na'amah for at least two years before he became king. But this circumstance is not likely since David, who himself had caused a marital scandal, would then have chosen as his successor a son who was married to a foreigner (which marriage was forbidden under tha Mosaic law) and who had already fathered the next heir to the throne by this foreigner. The correct record of Solomon's reign is given by Josephus who states that Solomon reigned 80 years (not 40 years) and that Solomon was 14 years old when he began to rule Israel. Moreover, Josephus also states that King Saul reigned 20 years (not 40 years) and that Samuel ruled the Israelites for 12 years before King Saul became king. This chronology, not that given in the extant Biblical manuscripts, is the only consistent chronology available. Of course it may still be historically inaccurate, but only archaeological evidence can determine that inaccuracy. Even so, we know with certainty that the chronology recorded in the extant Biblical manuscripts is inconsistent with the Biblical narrative and therefore very likely to be inaccurate.

Thirdly, an Egyptian record contemporary with the time of King David provides an absolute anchor for the Biblical chronology. A period of temple-service by Egyptian priests in the 5th year of Pharaoh Shoshenq I dates his accession to the year 943 B.C.E. See Rolf Krauss, Discussions in Egyptology. 2006.) It follows that the raid into Canaan conducted by Shoshenq in the last year of his reign, which raid coincided with the 5th year of Rehoboam's reign (1 Kings 14:25), must have occurred in the summer of 923 B.C.E. From this date King Solomon must then have died in 927 B.C.E., thus placing the 4th year of Solomon's reign when the Temple in Jerusalem was founded in the year 1004 B.C.E. To this date the figure of 549 years for the interval between the Israelite exodus and the founding of Solomon's Temple can be added to find the year of the Israelite exodus from Egypt---and that year is 1553 B.C.E.

And lastly, the year 1553 B.C.E. is significant because in Lower Egypt the Hyksos were still ruling at this time. This means that the Biblical record of the Israelite exodus from Egypt is relating the Israelite flight from a Hyksos Pharaoh, not an Egyptian Pharaoh. So if we look at the Egyptian history of this period we find that the Hyksos Pharaoh who ruled in 1553 B.C.E. was the last Hyksos Pharaoh, Pharaoh Kamudi. We see that Kamudi's father had ruled before him for at least 40 years, consistent with the Biblical record of Moses' exile in Midian for 40 years. And we see that the Egyptian Pharaoh Ahmose (who founded the Egyptian New Kingdom) recorded on the so-called "Tempest Stele" that a series of natural calamities had disrupted Egypt early in his reign, including a period of darkness that had arisen from the western desert consistent with an eruption of a volcano in the Tibesti Masiff located in what is now northern Chad. We may infer that Pharaoh Ahmose was able to overcome the Hyksos, when both his brother and his father had not, because the Hyksos had been devastated by the Ten Plagues. But to be conclusive, archaeological evidence that would corroborate the Biblical narrative would have to be found---perhaps a good place to look would be at Tell el Dab'a in the Nile Delta (site of the Hyksos capital of Avaris) and at Tell el Ajjul near Gaza City (site of Sharuhen, the last Hyksos stronghold taken by Pharaoh Ahmose when he drove the Hyksos from Egypt. And archaeological evidence should exist if the Biblical record is historically accurate---that is, unless the Israeli military machine does not destroy that evidence as it did during the recent Gaza incursion. Ya think maybe the Zionists are trying to hide something like their Pharisaic brothers once did?

Submitting....

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