A Surprising Alignment of the Exodus with Egyptian History

The following article / video is from our Truth in Time ministry. You are welcome to visit the Truth in Time website to learn more. You can also see all of my articles and videos on biblical chronology where we are exploring Dr. Aardsma’s theory of the “missing millennium” in biblical history.

True stories are found in real-world history. The account of the Exodus is the story of God’s work to redeem His people out from captivity, bringing them into the Promised Land, and through this nation, to bring the Redeemer into the world. It presents the defining features of the nation of Israel’s identity. It is an account of utmost importance to so many people, and even to the very foundation of the gospel message, as during the final plague the death angel “passes over” the houses of those protected by the blood of the lamb applied to the door posts. And the Bible presents this account as real-world history, with real people, in a real place, in real time.

Within this story we learn some amazing things, presented as ancient history. We hear of a Pharaoh “which knew not Joseph” who long oppressed the children of Israel, and made slaves of the people. We then learn of another Pharaoh who succeeded him, who refused to listen to God and let God’s people go. We learn of ten terrible plagues brought on the nation of Egypt– pollution of the Nile River, infestations of frogs and insects, a breakout of boils on the people, death of the livestock, and more, ending with the death of every firstborn (a significant portion of the population) in one night– all due to the second Pharaoh’s continuous, stubborn rebellion. And after all of this, when Israel finally did leave, they took the wealth of the kingdom with them. Pharaoh’s heart is hardened one more time, and he leads his army into the midst of the Red Sea to a horrific death.

All of this would, of course, have left the nation of Egypt in utter chaos. At one point, as Moses was warning of the coming plague of locust, Pharaoh’s servants looked at him and said, “Do you not yet know that Egypt is destroyed?” We then read of millions of people, Israelites with Egyptians mixed among them, leaving the land of Egypt and heading into the wilderness, on their journey to the Promised Land.

As Christians, we believe this story to be true. And if it is a true account, we should have no problem in our modern times going back and finding such an amazing account within the historical record and within archaeology. Egyptologists (who devote their lives to the study of ancient Egypt) ought to be able to point to who these Pharaohs were, when Egypt was destroyed by such events, pottery shards in the wilderness showing the migration of millions of people, the route they took, and more.

The Bad News

However, over the last couple of decades, we have read such things in the news as, “There is no direct evidence that people worshipping Yahweh sojourned in ancient Egypt… during the time the Exodus is believed to have happened.” (haaretz.com, April, 2016), and “After a century of excavations trying to prove the ancient accounts true, archaeologists say there is no conclusive evidence that the Israelites were ever in Egypt, were ever enslaved, ever wandered in the Sinai wilderness for 40 years or ever conquered the land of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership.” (Los Angeles Times, April 13th, 2001). A number of years ago Rabbi David Wolpe gave a now-famous Passover sermon where he openly let members of the Sinai Temple know that most scholars don’t even believe the Exodus actually occurred, and that this was something they had known for more than a decade. (These are not just a few isolated examples. These statements are representative of the general consensus on this matter.)

How can these statements be made regarding such an important historical event? For the Jewish people, as Dennis Prager pointed out, no Exodus means no Judaism. The Exodus account is foundational to so many beliefs and ideologies. Is this just another brash attack on Christianity by the news media and others with an anti-God agenda? No, not this time. Sadly, the short answer is, the spade of the archaeologist is simply not turning up any evidence of these accounts in real-world history within the timeframe that they are supposed to have taken place. If the evidence is there, somebody surely would have pointed it out by now.

A Thousand Years Away

But if we take another look, and understand a key chronological problem that has been overlooked, I submit that we absolutely can find the Exodus in real-world history. So, what do we need in order to do this? We need to know two things. We need to know where the events took place, and we need to know when the events took place.

The first question is obviously not hard. These events were told to have taken place in ancient Egypt. The question of when these events took place is the real issue here. The problem we are facing is not with the biblical account or with the archaeological finds. The problem is with the accepted chronology. Traditional chronology has been off– very badly off– on the timeframe of when this took place.

Most biblical chronologists and scholars place the Exodus in the second millennium B.C., around 1450 B.C. They have come to this conclusion using key passages from the Bible that give time periods of Israel’s history. When added up, these dates bring you to the second millennium B.C. for the Exodus, and they believe this must be correct, based on all the information they have to work with. 

The problem is, as we have already noted, this time period shows no strong evidence for the Exodus. Instead of evidence for an upheaval due to the events described, during this historical period we see Pharaohs such as the mighty warrior Thutmose III, enjoying uninterrupted strength, flourishing, and the nation prosperous. A century later, the prosperity of Egypt comes to full fruition under the rule of Amenophis III. These things are the exact opposite of what we should expect to find.

As we have discussed in previous articles, the answer to this problem is that the accepted, traditional biblical chronology is off by an entire millennium. It seems that a copy error in an early manuscript– a single digit dropped from a single verse– has resulted in this massive confusion. (More can be read on this topic here.) We have been looking in the right place, but when it comes to the right time, we might as well have been a thousand miles away. Once you shift Old Testament biblical history back one thousand years from the time of Samuel on back, suddenly the pieces begin to fall into place. Let me demonstrate.

Instead of 1450 B.C., let’s shift the biblical account of the Exodus back one thousand years, placing the events at 2450 B.C. Obviously, inserting an entire millennium into biblical history should make a mess out of everything, unless it is actually missing. If you have the wrong answer to a problem, you won’t move from confusion to clarity. A wrong answer will only move you from confusion to further confusion. (I plan to continue putting content out to demonstrate how this corrected chronology amazingly brings biblical history into harmony with secular history.)

Where to find the Exodus. The red bar is where everyone has always looked.

Three Synchronisms

When the Exodus is placed at 2450 B.C., what happens? Do we have clarity or confusion? Let’s start with a very basic question– was there an Egyptian civilization with reigning Pharaohs at the date 2450 B.C.? Yes, secular history tells us there was. So from there we can proceed, and see whether the missing millennium thesis is corroborated or falsified.

Synchronism #1: The Pharaoh of the Oppression

Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. And he said to his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we.

Exodus 1:8-9

Who was this Pharaoh that oppressed and made slaves of the children of Israel? Is there anything about him that could give us a clue as to how to identify him? It is this Pharaoh that Moses is born under (and was nearly killed by his infanticide), whose own daughter rescued and raised Moses, and from whom Moses flees after he kills an Egyptian. It was not until this Pharaoh dies that Moses returns to Egypt. “Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died.” (Exodus 2:23)

When Moses does return to Egypt, we learn that he is 80 years old. This means, if it is still this same Pharaoh that is in power, which is the natural reading of the story, that the Israelites suffered under this Pharaoh for nearly 100 years! This would certainly be a great way to help identify which Pharaoh this could be. We are looking for a Pharaoh in secular Egyptian history who ruled for more than 80 years. Were there any such Pharaohs?

There are no Pharaohs who ruled for 80 years or more in the second millennium B.C., but there is one who ruled in the third millennium B.C. for well over 80 years.

There is one ruler in all of Egyptian history who had a reign of this kind of length. His name was Pepi II (sometimes called Phiops II) who ruled for 94 years! Ancient Egyptian historian Manetho reported that he came to the throne at age six, and died in his one hundredth year, having reigned for 94 years. He is also within the timeframe that we are placing the Exodus (with our adjusted biblical chronology), one thousand years earlier than traditional chronology places the event.

So we find one ruler with this length of a reign, ruling in Egypt, and ruling in the third millennium, at just the right time when our adjusted chronology would expect a very long-reigning pharaoh. Now this is all very interesting, but probably not enough yet to make our case.

Synchronism #2: The Pharaoh of the Exodus

And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go…

Exodus 5:1

After Moses returned to Egypt he stood before a new Pharaoh. Was there anything about him that could give us a clue as to how to identify him? 

This fellow was just as oppressive as his predecessor, but it was short lived— God was about to display His awesome power over this Pharaoh and his nation. Moses and Aaron requested that the people be allowed to observe a three day holiday in the wilderness that the LORD was requiring of them. But this Pharaoh states, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD…”What follows is a series of nationwide disasters on Egypt, with warnings from God and opportunities to avoid the disasters, by complying with God’s demand for letting the people go into the wilderness to sacrifice to Him. As we spoke of earlier, Egypt is all but destroyed during this time, and this Pharaoh ends up drowning in the Red Sea along with his army. ”And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.”  Ex. 14:28

This means the Pharaoh of the Exodus, the successor to Pepi II, should have a very brief reign. Was this the case in history? Who was the successor of Pepi II? His name was Merenre Antyemsaf II. History does not record the manner of his death, but it does record that his reign lasted for one year only. Historian W. Stevenson Smith writes, ”Phiops II is followed in the Abydos List by a Merenre who was also called Antyemsaf… The name is broken off in the Turin Canon, where length of reign is given as one year.” 

The Bible speaks of a Pharaoh with an extraordinarily long reign followed by a Pharaoh with a very short reign. There is no other such lineup of rulers in ancient secular Egyptian history than these two Pharaohs. But we have a third synchronism yet to go.

Synchronism #3: The Collapse of Egypt

Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him,… Do you not yet know that Egypt is destroyed?

Exodus 10:7

Knowing the destruction that took place during the ten plagues that God brought on the nation of Egypt, would we not assume that these calamities would bring an overall collapse of that nation? This, combined with the wealth of the land walking out of the gates with the slaves, the Pharaoh and his army drowned in the sea, and Egypt left without her slave labor force, surely the Exodus would have caused the complete and utter ruin of Egypt.

Again, the problem with the traditional date of the Exodus — within the second millennium B.C.— is that we see Egypt’s history displaying nothing like this. Pretty much the opposite of utter ruin is what one finds at the traditional date. In sharp contrast, when we look to the end of the reign of Merenre Antyemsaf II, we find our third synchronism. The “Old Kingdom” comes to an abrupt end (the end of the sixth dynasty), and there begins a centuries-long interval of chaos which scholars call the “First Intermediate” period. Nicolas Grimal, in his work “A History of Ancient Egypt”, states concerning this transition, “It was the collapse of the whole society, and Egypt itself had become a world in turmoil…” The second millennium B.C. history of Egypt displays nothing even remotely like this.

The Main Takeaway

There has been much debate and discussion over the years concerning when the Exodus took place. Of course, many questions could be brought up about what is being presented here. But the main takeaway in this article is to demonstrate that this test of inserting an entire millennium into the biblical chronology does not bring obvious confusion, as one would expect when doing such a thing. On the contrary, it actually presents a surprising and exceedingly unlikely harmony of secular Egyptian history and biblical history.

What are the odds that we can insert one thousand years into biblical chronology, and end up with three synchronisms in a row between secular Egyptian history and biblical history? We have one monarch recorded in all of human history who reigned over 90 years, meeting the requirements of the Biblical account, ruling over no other country than Egypt, and at no other time than in the middle of 3rd millennium BC. We see a monarch immediately following with a very brief reign meeting the requirements of the biblical account, a unique pair of Pharaohs (only happening once in ancient Egyptian history), back to back, beautifully fitting the Exodus account. And finally, immediately following the reign of these two monarchs, we find that Egypt enters into a time of utter chaos, and the great Old Kingdom collapses. All of this meeting the biblical requirements.

And it doesn’t stop here. In our next article we will see if there is any evidence for a great multitude of people wandering about in the desert during this same period of history. Stay tuned!

To read more on this exciting and vital discovery in biblical chronology, you can access Dr. Gerald Aardsma’s books at his research website.

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