The Date of the Exodus Reexamined -- By: Charles H. Dyer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 140:559 (Jul 1983)
Article: The Date of the Exodus Reexamined
Author: Charles H. Dyer


The Date of the Exodus Reexamined

Charles H. Dyer

[Charles H. Dyer, Assistant to the Academic Dean, Instructor in Bible Exposition, Dallas Theological Seminary]

Why reexamine the date of the Exodus? Some might object to such a reexamination of the evidence as simply “beating a dead horse.” However, this type of objection fails on two counts. First, each generation needs to reexamine the problem to decide for itself the validity of’ the possible solutions based on the most recent textual and archaeological studies. New evidence can help condemn or confirm previous hypotheses. Second, the problem must be reexamined because other options are continually being advanced which must be evaluated.1

Because of the limited scope of this article, only the two views which currently hold sway in the Exodus problem will be examined. These are known as the “early date” and the “late date.” The early date places the Exodus in 1445 B.C. while the late date identifies the Exodus as having occurred about 1290 B.C.

The Late Date

The late date is that date held by nearly all liberal scholars and by a fair number of conservative scholars. Four lines of evidence are presented in favor of a late date.

The Cities of Pithom and Raamses

A biblical argument used to support the late date of the Exodus is based on Exodus 1:11. “So they appointed taskmasters

over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses.” The thrust of this argument is this: (1) The Israelites built the city of Raamses just before the Exodus. (2) This city is to be equated with the city of Pi-Ramesse built by Pharaoh Ramesses II, who ruled from 1240 to 1224. (3) Therefore the Exodus must have occurred sometime in the 13th century during the reign of this pharaoh. Kitchen feels that this argument alone is determinative for dating the Exodus in the 13th century.2

Those who hold to this position have failed to prove two links in their chain of evidence. First, they have failed to prove that the city of Raamses mentioned in Exodus 1:11 should be equated with Pi-Ramesse built by Ramesses II. Rather they have assumed the connection solely on the basis of similarity of the words “Raamses” and “Ramesses.” Second, they have failed to prove that a similarity of names requires a chronological unity between the two events. That is, even if the two cities are to be equated, this st...

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