Dating the Exodus (long)

Walter Mattfeld mattfeld at
Sat Jan 22 16:57:43 EST 2000

Scholars are divided on the dating of the Exodus. Conservatives like to
point out 480 years between the Exodus and Solomon's building of the temple
ca. 966 BCE (1 Ki. 6:1) to arrive at a date circa 1440 BCE. Humanist
scholars posit a date in the 13th century BCE, ca. 1250 BCE, based on
archaeological considerations. Still others have noted that a close and
careful reading of all the texts reveals that instead of 480 yrs. some 554
yrs in addition to two periods of unknown length (cf. pp.583-584, Vol.1, The
Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, 1962, "Chronology of the OT" by S.J.
De Vries). De vries noted Josephus gave two different totals 612yrs
(Antiq.8.3.1) and 592 yrs (Apion 2.2) between the Exodus and Solomon's
temple, showing he was aware of the discrepancy (1 Ki. 6:1, 480 yrs).

Josephus' 612yrs + 966 BCE (Temple of Solomon) = 1578 BCE
Josephus' 592yrs + 966 BCE =  1558 BCE
De Vries  554yrs + x + y + 966 BCE ==   1510 BCE and earlier

I note that the Egyptologist Breasted gives Pharaoh Ahmosis I reign as
1580-1557 BCE (p.599, J.H. Breasted, A History of Egypt, Scribner's & Sons,
NY, 1912).  Ahmoses is credited with expelling the Hyksos and pursuing them
to Canaan. I note that Josephus' tabulations place the Exodus in the reign
of Ahmosis I, and suggests that the Hyksos Exodus is in fact the kernel of
truth underlying the biblical portrayal.

The above figures place the Exodus in the 16th century, the same century
that witnessed the Hyksos expulsion. Redford, a trained Egyptologist,
concluded from his research that the only event in Egyptian history that
could account for the Bible's Exodus was the Hyksos expulsion:

" one can deny that the tradition of Israel's coming out of Egypt was
one of long standing...There is only one chain of historical events that can
accomodate this late tradition, and that is the Hyksos descent and
occupation of Egypt...And in fact it is in the Exodus account that we are
confronted with the Canaanite version of this event..." (p.412, Donald B.
Redford, Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times, Princeton University
Press, 1992)

I am of the persuasion that the Exodus is indeed the Hyksos expulsion (an
idea also accepted by Josephus).

As all the readers are aware I take a Humanist position in my research, but
I must say I am impressed by the Bible's ability to place this historical
event in a proper historical context, the 16th century BCE.

Most Humanist scholars place the Exodus in the 13th century BCE. After the 6
days war with Egypt, Israel sent teams of archaeologists to map the Sinai's
archaeological sites, along the way they kept a sharp eye out for any
evidence of the Exodus in the form of pottery debris, campfires of blackened
stones, stone corrals for the herds of cattle and sheep accompanying the
Israelites. Sad to say, they found no evidence for an Exodus. I suspect they
were looking in the wrong century, the 13th instead of the 16th, and the
wrong place, southern Sinai instead of northern Sinai and the way of the
Philistines, whence the Hyksos fled with Egyptians in pursuit.

Exodus tells a story of God feeding his people with quail that fall from the
skies, perhaps this marker can identify the route of the Israelites ? Every
year near El Arish quail migrating from Europe fall exhausted from the skies
in their annual migration to Africa. They alight only near El Arish, not the
shores of the Red Sea, and the migration occurs only in the Autumn, not in
the Spring, as portrayed in the Exodus narrative (Why did the biblical
narrator have quail migrating in the spring and not the autumn ?).

The narrator of Exodus, composing this account in the 5th century BCE was
evidently not aware that the Philistines, known to the Egyptians as the
Plst, did not settle in Philista until 1188 BCE in the reign of Ramses III,
over 300 yrs after the Hyksos expulsion, so he evidently invented a route of
escape from Egypt avoiding the way of the Philistines, knowing they wouldn't
let Israelite enemies enter Canaan via their borders.

After suppossedly leaving Mt. Sinai, Israel fought Sihon the Amorite, who's
capital was Heshbon. The city has been identified and excavated. Sad to say,
the earliest evidence of an occupation was after 1200 BCE. This caused some
embarrassment to both Conservative and Humanist scholars who posited an
Exodus circa 1440/1250 BCE. There was no Sihon of Heshban to oppose the
Israelites passing through the area.

All the best,

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld
Walldorf by Heidelberg

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