The Sphinx Stele Of Thutmose IV And The Date Of The Exodus -- By: Charles F. Aling
JETS 22:2 (June 1979) p. 97
The Sphinx Stele Of Thutmose IV And
The Date Of The Exodus
Defenders of the early date of the exodus (ca. 1445 B.C.) have long sought Egyptian inscriptional evidence of the deaths of Egypt’s firstborn sons as described in Exod 12:29 ff. Invariably such searches culminate in references to the Sphinx Stele of Thutmose IV,1 the son of the pharaoh of the exodus, Amenhotep II. In this famous stele, set up between the forepaws of the great sphinx at Giza in year one of the reign of Thutmose IV, the young king recounts an incident that occurred some years earlier during the reign of his father Amenhotep II. While the young prince Thutmose rested after hunting in the Giza area, the god Harmakhis Kheper-Re-Atum appeared to him in a dream and promised him the throne if he would clear away the sand that had partially covered the sphinx. The obvious implication is that Thutmose did not expect to inherit the crown of Egypt and that he had one or more older brothers with prior claim to Egypt’s throne. It has become the common practice of conservative scholars to cite the stele as proof that an older son of Amenhotep II died in the plague of the firstborn.2
Before we accept the Sphinx Stele as evidence of the Biblical plague, two questions must be answered: (1) How trustworthy is the stele itself?. (2) Was Thutmose IV old enough before the exodus to hunt and have dreams such as the one recounted on the stele?
Regarding the authenticity of the stele, most experts are agreed that in its present version it is a late document, probably dating from Dynasty XXI at the earliest.3 It is, however, extremely probable that although the present Sphinx Stele was inscribed in or after the eleventh century B.C. it is a faithful restoration of a substantially identical text commissioned by Thutmose IV.4 We may therefore accept the stele’s contents as authentic.
The second question deserves deeper investigation. Our consideration of the age of the prince at the time of the exodus must begin with a study of the chronology of the reign of Thutmose IV. Since the highest known date from the monu-
*Charles Aling is professor of history and Biblical archaeology at Tennessee Temple Schools, Chattanooga, Tennessee.
JETS 22:2 (June 1979) p. 98
ments is year eight,5 and since Manetho, the Egyptian priest and chronographer of the Hellenistic period, gives Thutmose a reign of ...
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