The Date of the Exodus

Here’s one more essay for you all to read, but this one is from a different PSEO class–Old Testament Archaeology. This one essay is the only one that we did for the whole semester in this class. It is a research paper written about a controversial topic; in my case, the date of the Exodus. OT Archaeology class was so interesting! My teachers showed that there is actual historical and archaeological proof for the Bible, and it was so neat! I wish all of you could have had a chance to do this class–I think you would have enjoyed it as much as I did! Well, at least I hope you enjoy reading my essay. It earned an A (95%) from my teacher.

Sooner Rather Than Later

You could feel the tension and excitement in the air even before the sun had risen.  Parents called to one another.  Children laughed and shouted.  Flocks and herds were everywhere, adding to the bedlam of noise.  Finally, after decades of enslavement, God’s chosen people, the Israelites, were leaving Egypt.   There are many who believe that the exodus did not take place at all.  However, if one believes in the accuracy of Bible, there is no doubt that the exodus did indeed take place.  The question then is when did it take place?  There is an overwhelming amount of Biblical, historical, and archaeological evidence to prove that the exodus occurred in 1446 B.C. under Pharaoh Amenhotep II.

First of all, there is Biblical evidence of an early date exodus.  Bryant Wood, a director of research at the Associates of Biblical Research, said that “The date of the Biblical exodus-conquest is clear.  1 Kings 6:1 and 1 Chronicles 6:33-37 converge on a date of 1446 B.C. for the exodus.”[1]  Wood further supported the early date exodus by using 1 Chronicles 6:33-37 to show that “there were 19 generations between Moses and Solomon, not 12.”[2]

The passage in 1 Kings 6:1 is quoted as follows:
And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord.
Wood said, “The 480 years of 1 Kings 6:1 should be taken as a scientifically precise number.”[3]  It is easy to see, then, that the fourth year of King Solomon’s reign took place exactly four hundred and eighty years after the exodus.

History Professor Dr. Charles Aling of Northwestern College explained the mathematics involved to produce the early date of 1446 B.C.  Using the date of 966 B.C. as the fourth year of Solomon, he maintained that the departure of the Israelites from Egypt happened in the fifteenth century B.C.[4]

However, those who believe in the late date of the exodus, around 1200 B.C., under Pharaoh Ramses II, can produce what seems to be Biblical support for their position as well.  The professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern History and Archaeology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, James Hoffmeier, explained that the evidence for the late date exodus is found in Exodus 1:11, which mentions a city that apparently bears Ramses II’s title.[5]Again, in another article, Hoffmeier continued, “Since it was known from Egyptian texts that… Ramses II (1279-1213 B.C.) had built a new city in the northeastern delta named Pi-Ramesses (‘House or Domain of Ramesses’), it logically followed that the exodus occurred… later in the 66-year reign of Ramses.”[6]


Wood responded to that argument with this information:  “When a later name is editorially inserted into a passage that is chronologically earlier than the time of the name change, the editor simply replaced the earlier name with the later name in the majority of cases.”  Wood showed that the name Ramses occurred long before the actual reign of Ramses II.  “It was coined in ca. 1270 B.C. and clearly was used proleptically in Genesis 47:11 and Exodus 1:11.”  Wood concluded by citing the cities of Bethel, Dan, and Hormah as other examples of cases in which “the redactor did not include the earlier name.”[7]

Not only can the early date exodus advocates produce Biblical support, but also historical evidence.  By a careful study of the rulers and events around the time of the early date for the exodus, one can find correlations that are not present during the late date years.  In a lecture given at Northwestern College, history professor Clyde Billington gave the following examples[8]:  Hatshepsut, who ruled Egypt from 1504-1482 B.C., could very well have been the mother of Moses.  Her son-in-law, Thutmosis III, was not on very good terms with his mother-in-law, and smashed many of her statues.  His actions could have been prompted out of jealousy of Moses. 

Also in his lecture, Billington spoke of Amenhotep II, the son of Thutmosis III, who reigned from 1453-1415 B.C.  For the first seven years of his reign, he went on many military campaigns.  Suddenly, around 1446 B.C., those campaigns ceased for no apparent reason.  However, an obvious answer comes to us in Exodus 15:4:  “Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea.”  There is some debate among scholars as to whether the pharaoh himself was drowned in the Red Sea;  but, aside from that point, it is obvious that his army and captains were, which certainly would have dampened further military crusades.

Lastly, there are archaeological discoveries that back up the historical evidence for the early date exodus.  It is a historical fact that Thutmosis IV, the son of Amenhotep II, was not actually the first born son of this pharaoh.  Did the first born son die during the tenth plague on Egypt?  The archaeological finding of the Unknown Man E, whom some archaeologists believe to be the mummy of the first born son, indicates this possibility. 

Professor of History at Northwestern College, Clyde Billington, stated that “Everything about Unknown Man E and his unusual burial fits the events associated with the exodus.”  He then went on to list that the Unknown Man E died during the Eighteenth Dynasty in Egypt as a young man of about 23 to 24 years of age, which fits the time period of the early date exodus.  He died of an unknown cause, although his posture, facial expression, and cloth-bound limbs suggest some sort of agonizing convulsions.  This man was wrapped and buried hastily in a sheepskin, which matches the haste of the pharaoh to chase after and recapture the Israelites.  Billington concluded by saying, “While there is and probably never will be any certain proof, I believe that the circumstantial evidence strongly indicates that Unknown Man E was the first-born son of Pharaoh who died at the time of the exodus.”[9]

Another archaeological discovery that supports the early date exodus is the Tel-Amarna Letters.  These letters were sent to Pharaoh Akhenaton by kings in the Canaanite area who complained of being attacked by a people called the Habiru.  Wood expounded further on this subject.  “The ‘apiru of the highlands of Canaan described in the Amarna Letters of the mid-14th century B.C. conform to the Biblical Israelites.”  Wood also mentioned the Merneptah Stela, made by Ramses II’s son, Merneptah.  Wood continued, “Since the Israelites under Deborah and Barak were able to overthrow the largest city-state in Canaan in ca. 1230 B.C. and the Merneptah Stela indicates that Israel was the most powerful people group in Canaan in ca. 1210 B.C., it stands to reason that the ‘apiru who were taking over the highlands in the previous century were none other than the Israelites.”  Then Wood stated that “This evidence, if it holds up to further scrutiny, would also support a 15th-century B.C. exodus-conquest rather than a 13th-century B.C. timeframe.”[10]

Not only is there Biblical evidence for an early-date exodus in 1446 B.C., but also historical and archeological proof.  Verses such as 1 Kings 6:1 and 1 Chronicles 6:33-37, historical hints of an exodus during the fifteenth century, and actual archeological findings like the Unknown Man E, Tel-Amarna Letters, and Merneptah Stela are all important indicators of an early date exodus.  Because of a lack of evidence for the thirteenth-century exodus, supporters of the late date exodus give Bible critics room to say that the exodus never even occurred.  Yet when one believes that the exodus happened sooner, rather than later, faith in the accuracy of God’s word can be strengthened!

Bibliography:

Aling, Charles F. . “Some observations on the date of the exodus.” n.d. 5 May 2012.
Billington, Clyde. Pharaohs of the exodus. n.d. Lecture.
—. “The mummy of the first-born son of pharaoh.” 2002. Presented at the 2002 Meeting of the Near East Archaeological Society.
Hoffmeier, James K. “Rameses of the exodus narratives is the 13th century B.C. Royal Ramesside Residence.” Trinity Journal (2007): 281-289.
—. “What is the Biblical date for the exodus? A response to Bryant Wood.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50(2) (2007): 225-247.
Wood, Bryant G. “The Biblical date for the exodus is 1446 BC: A response to James Hoffmeier.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 28(2) (2007): 249-258.
—. “The rise and fall of the 13th-century exodus-conquest theory.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50(2) (2005): 475-489.




[1]Wood, Bryant G. “The Biblical date for the exodus is 1446 BC: A response to James Hoffmeier.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 28(2) (2007). p. 258.

[2]Wood, Bryant G. “The Biblical date for the exodus is 1446 BC: A response to James Hoffmeier.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 28(2) (2007). p. 253.
[3]Wood, Bryant G. “The Biblical date for the exodus is 1446 BC: A response to James Hoffmeier.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 28(2) (2007). p. 253.
[4] Aling, Charles F. . “Some observations on the date of the exodus.” n.d. 5 May 2012. para. 2.
[5]Hoffmeier, James K. “Rameses of the exodus narratives is the 13th century B.C. Royal Ramesside Residence.” Trinity Journal (2007). p. 282.
[6]Hoffmeier, James K. “What is the Biblical date for the exodus? A response to Bryant Wood.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50(2) (2007). p. 232.
[7]Wood, Bryant G. “The Biblical date for the exodus is 1446 BC: A response to James Hoffmeier.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 28(2) (2007). pp. 250, 252.
[8]Billington, Clyde. Pharaohs of the exodus. n.d. Lecture.
[9]Billington, Clyde. “The mummy of the first-born son of pharaoh.” 2002. Presented at the 2002 Meeting of the Near East Archaeological Society. para. 61.
[10]Wood, Bryant G.“The rise and fall of the 13th-century exodus-conquest theory.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50(2) (2005). p. 489.
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