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The Pharaoh of the Exodus is the pharaoh (king) who ruled over ancient Egypt at the time of the Exodus story in the Bible. More precisely, it is the question of who this pharaoh might have been.

The story of the enslavement of the Children of Israel in Egypt, the plagues by which the Jewish God forces their release, and their subsequent escape from a pursuing army at the Crossing of the Red Sea, is told in the opening chapters of the Book of Exodus. The pharaoh of the story is not named - he is referred to simply as "pharaoh" - and the question of his identity has been the subject of much speculation among those who believe the Exodus to be a real event. Candidates put forward for the role include:

The most commonly imagined figure in popular culture is Ramesses the Great, although there is no documentary or archaeological evidence that he had to deal with the Plagues of Egypt or anything similar or that he chased Hebrew slaves fleeing Egypt.

There is also an account made by Merneptah, in the form of a poem from the so-called Israel Stele, which makes reference to the supposed utter destruction of Israel in a campaign prior to his 5th year in Canaan: "Israel has been wiped out...its seed is no more." This is the first recognised ancient Egyptian record of the existence of Israel--"not as a country or city, but as a tribe" or people.[8]. The existence of this document makes Amenmesse and Setnakhte very unlikely candidates for Pharaoh of the Exodus, since Israel was present in Canaan before their time.

In the 1960s and 1970s, several scholars such as George Mendenhall[9] associated the Israelites' arrival in Canaan (many scholars such as William G. Dever and Israel Finkelstein now view the Israelites as native to Canaan) more closely with the Hapiru mentioned in the Amarna letters which date to the reign of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten and in the Hittite treaties with Ramesses II.

In black is the traditional Exodus Routes as agreed on by most experts. Other possible but not-so-likely Exodus Routes are in Pink and Green. More at: Stations list

Most scholars today, however, view the Hapiru or Apiru instead as bandits who attacked the trade and royal caravans that travelled along the coastal roads of Canaan. Ramesses II's late 13th century BC stela in Beth Shan mentions two conquered peoples who came to "make obeisance to him" in his city of Raameses or Pi-Ramesses but mentions neither the building of the city nor, as some have written, the Israelites or Hapiru".[10] On the other hand, it is known that Pithom was built during the reign of Horemheb, as was Pi-Ramesses under the mayorship of Paramessu, later known as Ramesses I.

See also

  • David Rohl
  • Ipuwer Papyrus
  • New Chronology (Rohl)
  • Shiphrah
  • Thrasyllus of Mendes

External Links


  1. David Rohl, The Lost Testament (2002) - ISBN 0712669930 - pages 200, 201, 202, 205, 210, 212, 216, 249, 278. Immanuel Velikovsky, Ages in Chaos (1952)
  2. Flavius Josephus, Against Apion
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Geoffrey W. Bromiley (ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:E-J (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing 1996 ISBN 978-0802837820 pp 233-236 [1]
  4. Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism (1939)
  7. Rolf Krauss, The Moses Mystery
  8. Jacobus Van Dijk, "The Amarna Period and the Later New Kingdom" in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, ed. Ian Shaw, Oxford University Press (2000), p.302
  9. Mendenhall, "The Hebrew Conquest of Palestine," Biblical Archaeologist (25, 1962)
  10. Stephen L. Caiger, "Archaeological Fact and Fancy," Biblical Archaeologist, (9, 1946).

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