Who was the pharaoh of the Exodus?

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By BibleAsk Team


The identity of the pharaoh of the Exodus is a subject of considerable debate among scholars, historians, and theologians. The biblical narrative in the Book of Exodus describes the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt and their subsequent deliverance by Moses under the direction of God. While the Bible provides important theological insights into this event, determining the historical context and identifying the specific pharaoh involved in the Exodus is a complex endeavor. Let’s explore the biblical text, examine historical evidence, and consider various scholarly perspectives on this intriguing question.

The Biblical Narrative:

The story of the Exodus is recounted primarily in the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament. The key passages include:

  1. Exodus 1:8-14 (NKJV):
    • This passage describes the oppression of the Israelites by the Egyptians, culminating in the decree by Pharaoh to kill the Hebrew male children.
  2. Exodus 2:23-25 (NKJV):
  3. Exodus 3:1-15 (NKJV):
    • Moses encounters God in the burning bush and is commissioned to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
  4. Exodus 5-12 (NKJV):
    • This section narrates the ten plagues inflicted upon Egypt, culminating in the Passover and the Israelites’ escape from bondage.
  5. Exodus 14 (NKJV):
    • The Israelites cross the Red Sea on dry ground as God miraculously delivers them from the pursuing Egyptian army.

Historical Challenges:

Identifying the pharaoh of the Exodus presents several challenges from a historical perspective:

  1. Lack of Contemporary Records:
    • The biblical account of the Exodus does not provide specific details about the pharaoh’s name or reign, making it difficult to correlate with known historical records.
  2. Shifting Chronologies:
    • Egyptian chronologies are complex and subject to revision based on archaeological discoveries and scholarly interpretations. The dating of the Exodus varies widely among scholars, ranging from the Late Bronze Age to the early Iron Age.
  3. Absence of Direct Evidence:
    • Despite extensive archaeological research in Egypt, no conclusive evidence has been found to corroborate the biblical account of the Exodus or identify the pharaoh associated with it.

Scholarly Perspectives:

Concerning who was the Pharaoh of Egypt during the time of the Hebrew slavery and deliverance, there are no contemporary, non-Biblical records of the Exodus that exist today for the Egyptians never recorded events that were unfavorable to them. But the chronology of the pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty, which is based on the best available evidence, can shed some light on this question.

The Pharaoh Ahmose, who fully liberated Egypt from the rile of the Hyksos was followed by Amenhotep I (1546-1525 B.C.). His son Thutmose I (1525-1508 B.C.), was the first king to record the use of Asiatic slaves in the construction of his temples. It is possible that these slaves were Hebrews. Thutmose I was followed by Thutmose II (1508-1504 B.C.), after whose death Hatshepsut, a daughter of Thutmose I, ruled Egypt peacefully for 22 years (1504-1482 B.C.).

It could be that Hatshepsut was the foster mother of Moses, since the first 40 years of his life came during the reigns of Thutmose I, Thutmose II, and Hatshepsut. According to the Biblical chronology, Moses escaped from Egypt a few years before the beginning of the reign of Thutmose III.

At the beginning of Hatshepsut’s rule, the priests revolted against her forcing her to accept the rule of her nephew, Thutmose III. If, Hatshepsut was the princess who adopted Moses, this revolt of the priests could have been the result of Moses’ rejection of the priestly duties in the royal court.

Thutmose III became the ruler (1482-1450 B.C.) and like his grandfather, he recorded that Asiatic slaves were employed in his temple-building program. He could have been the Pharaoh from whom Moses escaped Egypt to land of of Median.

Thutmose III was followed by his son Amenhotep II (1450-1425 B.C.). His rule matches that of the Pharaoh of the Exodus. It was not the crown prince but another son of Amenhotep II, Thutmose IV (1425-1412 B.C.), that followed him on the throne. This could have been due to the slaying of all first-born sons in the tenth plague that was inflicted by God on Egypt.

Conclusion:

The identity of the pharaoh of the Exodus has fascinated scholars and theologians for centuries. While the biblical narrative provides theological insights into the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, determining the historical context and pinpointing the specific pharaoh involved presents considerable challenges.

Some scholars propose Thutmose III, a pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, as a candidate for the pharaoh of the Exodus. Thutmose III’s reign saw military campaigns in Canaan and the Levant, and his successor, Amenhotep II, may have been the pharaoh confronted by Moses.

Ultimately, the quest to identify the pharaoh of the Exodus highlights the intersection of biblical studies, archaeology, and ancient history. While scholars continue to explore this intriguing question, the biblical account of the Exodus continues to inspire awe and wonder as a testament to God’s faithfulness, deliverance, and redemption. Whether or not the identity of the pharaoh is ever definitively established, the story of the Exodus remains a foundational narrative of the Christian faith, resonating with themes of liberation, justice, and divine intervention.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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