Historical Synchronisms and the Date of the Exodus -- By: Charles F. Aling

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 17:2 (Spring 2004)
Article: Historical Synchronisms and the Date of the Exodus
Author: Charles F. Aling

Historical Synchronisms and the Date of the Exodus

Charles F. Aling

For those that hold a high view of Scripture and believe the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt actually happened, there are two major positions today regarding when that event occurred: the so-called Early Date, which places the Exodus in the mid-15th century BC, most probably during the reign of Amenhotep II, and the so-called Late Date, which posits Rameses II (ca. 1279–1212 BC) as the Pharaoh confronted by Moses. Much has been written in defense of both these views. It is the purpose of this article to take a fresh look at Rameses II as Pharaoh of the Exodus in light of both Biblical and Assyrian chronologies. Is it likely, or even possible, that Rameses II could have been the Pharaoh of the Exodus?

First, let us observe Biblical events and personages between the Exodus and a known date in Near Eastern history, the date of the famous Battle of Qarqar, where a coalition of western kings defeated Shalmaneser III of Assyria. It is accepted, thanks to astronomical data and our solid knowledge of Assyrian chronology, that the battle took place in 853 BC. It is also known that Ahab, king of Israel, was a participant in the battle. Shalmaneser III tells us so in his records regarding Qarqar. Ahab almost certainly died later that same year.1

How long a period of time does the Bible demand between the Exodus and the death of King Ahab of Israel? If we take the Biblical year totals seriously, quite a lengthy period is required. The Exodus was followed by 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, and then by a long but not absolutely calculatable period for the Conquest and the period of the Judges. While it is likely that there is some overlap among the judges, it still seems necessary to allot between 300 and 400 years for the wanderings, conquest, and days of the judges.

Rameses II, ruler of Egypt for 67 years, ca. 1279–1212 BC. Called “the Great” because of his military exploits and construction projects, his statues and buildings can still be seen in Egypt today. Even his mummy is on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. He also had a great family by his several wives—at least 45 sons and 40 daughters! The tomb of his sons has recently been found in the Valley of the Kings in Thebes. According to the popular, but anti-Biblical, theory of a 13th century Exodus, Rameses II is thought to be the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Statue from Thebes, now in the British Museum.

After the judges, the period of the United Monarchy lasted ca. 120 years (according to the Bible, 40 years each for Saul, David, and Solomon). After the death of Solomon, the ki...

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