The Time of the Oppression and the Exodus -- By: John Rea

Journal: Grace Journal
Volume: GJ 02:1 (Winter 1961)
Article: The Time of the Oppression and the Exodus
Author: John Rea


The Time of the Oppression and the Exodus

John Rea

Member of the Faculty
Moody Bible Institute

This article was read before the Tenth Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Wheaton, Illinois, Dec. 30, 1959. Certain revisions have been made for this journal.

The problem of the date of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is an old one. Yet it is an extremely important one in Biblical studies, for, as Edwin R. Thiele has said, chronology is the one sure basis of accurate historical knowledge. Scholars have wrestled for over 2000 years with the questions of Hebrew chronology in the O.T. Many dates have long since been firmly fixed to the satisfaction of all; others remain unsettled. With respect to any date still in question new evidence demands new investigation of the problem in the hope that the new insight gained by intensive study may furnish a more reasoned solution.

The chronology of Israel in the first millennium B.C. has been quite accurately determined on the basis of its relationships with Assyrian history. For the chronology of Israel in the second millennium B.C., however, comparison may best be made with Egyptian history, for which scholars have determined dates with the greatest degree of certainty of any nation in the Near East in that millennium. (Yet even Egyptologists differ with regard to their dates about ten or fifteen years for the period in which we are interested, so one cannot yet arrive at dates with absolute finality.) Thus a knowledge of Egyptian history is essential to the O.T. scholar, for the key to the chronology of events throughout the entire second millennium B.C. in the O.T. is the date of the Exodus from Egypt.

Various Solutions of the Problem

The early date.—At present among O.T. scholars there are two main views concerning the date of the Exodus. One is that the Israelites left Egypt during the 18th Dynasty around the middle of the 15th century B.C., and the other is that they did not leave until the 19th Dynasty during the 13th century. The early date view best accords with certain data in the Bible, such as the 480 years between the Exodus and the beginning of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6:1) and the 300 years from the conquest of Transjordan to the time of Jephthah (Judg 11:26).

A late date.—The view for the date of the Exodus which has been held by a majority of scholars during the past century, and hence which has become more or less “traditional,” is the one which places that event at some time in the 13th century B.C. The most persuasive arguments are those of Albright and others who place the Exodus early in the reign ...

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