Rameses of the Exodus Narratives Is the 13 Century B.C. Royal Ramesside Residence -- By: James K. Hoffmeier

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 28:2 (Fall 2007)
Article: Rameses of the Exodus Narratives Is the 13 Century B.C. Royal Ramesside Residence
Author: James K. Hoffmeier


Rameses of the Exodus Narratives Is the 13th Century B.C. Royal Ramesside Residence

James K. Hoffmeier*

James K. Hoffmeier is Professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern History and Archaeology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.

Professor Robert Vasholz in a recent “short communication” in Presbyterion: Covenant Seminary Review made a novel attempt to reinterpret the toponym Rameses in Exod 1:11 so as to exclude it as a criterion for dating the exodus to the reign of Ramesses II (1279–1213 b.c.).1 He rightly recognizes that if this text refers to the Delta city built by Ramesses II and named after himself, then it conflicts with what Vasholz calls “the early (and biblical) dating of the exodus (1446 b.c.).”2 Consequently he needs to find an alternative explanation for Rameses in Exod 1:11.

The gist of his arguments are: (1) the grand metropolis built by Pharaoh Ramesses II simply does not correspond to the lowly “store city” (עָרֵֹי מִסְכְּוֹתʿārê miskᵉnôt) as described in Exod 1:11; (2) Egyptian Pharaohs did not name cities after themselves, meaning that the name Rameses in the Exod 1:11 must have some other origin, one that goes back prior to the time of Ramesses II so that it does not contradict the early Exodus date; and (3) based on the reference to “the land of Rameses” in Gen 47:11, he believes the name predates the era of Ramesses I-XI (1295–1069 b.c.), the expected period for the naming of the Egyptian city. In coming to these conclusions, Vasholz is apparently unaware of some critical evidence and misunderstands a number of Egyptian toponyms.

Before examining these three points, let me address another issue raised by the author, namely what he calls “the biblical” date of the exodus. Any scholar who is honest with the biblical data knows that there is no such thing as “the biblical” date for the exodus. By this I mean the Bible alone does not provide a date for the exodus or any other event in the OT.3 First Kings 6:1 reports that the exodus occurred four hundred eighty years before Solomon’s fourth year when work on the temple commenced. The Bible does not provide an

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